Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wetland plants at Freedom Park

Variable leaves and new bloom of pickerel weed growing at the edge of the west lake (click to view larger).
When I venture out to explore and draw nature in southwest Florida, I always find an appealing subject, even in the middle of a city or town.  One place in particular that offers a wide selection of natural subjects is Freedom Park in Naples.  Freedom Park is nestled between residential communities, golf courses, and two major roads – yet is an oasis for birds, wildlife, and nature-starved humans.  The fifty-acre park features a boardwalk and walkways that meander through both natural and created wetlands, and is dotted with bridges, benches and covered shelters. 
One of the purposes of the park is water purification: to collect and cleanse the pollutants in storm water that flows from surrounding roads, ditches, and residential areas before it enters Gordon River and Naples Bay.  By design and with the aid of two water pumps, water runoff is directed through the wetlands (lakes, marshes, and swamp) which filter out harmful pollutants in the same manner that water is cleansed in natural systems.

Spatterdock near the lake's edge (click to view larger).

Another purpose of the park is to alleviate the periodic flooding of local areas that receive extra runoff from urban neighborhoods.  An acre of wetland can collect and store over a million gallons of floodwater!  
Wetland systems also serve to replenish our aquifers, natural underground storage areas of limestone, sand and shell that are filled with water.  In Florida, we depend on fresh water from aquifers for drinking, cooking, irrigation, and manufacturing.  The Floridan Aquifer, which lies under a large portion of western central Florida, supplies Floridians with over two billion gallons of water every day.  One of our state’s five underground water reservoirs, this aquifer (known as Florida’s rain barrel) is the most productive in the world.
Our wetland areas also provide homes for some interesting plants, birds, and animals.  I found these emergent plants, spatterdock and pickerel weed,  along the edge of the manmade lake towards the southwest end of the park.  Our water levels are low, which is typical for this time of the year (our dry season), but life flourishes nonetheless: water insects, plant life, little and big fishes, and all the things that feed on them.  Everything depends on water!

Nature Sketch sketchbook by Pentalic
Black Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen XS,
Daniel Smith watercolors.