This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info: guerinw@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Florida parking lot . . and beyond

Not much green happening around here, so I'll report on some of the doings at The Waterford senior facility in Juno Beach, where I was visiting my mother this past weekend. Wait a minute, hold on there. That's not a very compelling opening. Click the link below for some fascinating observations on the Florida natural environment . . . 


First off . .
Gotta love the palm trees, particularly the ubiquitous cabbage palm which is the state tree of Florida. And the birds -- mockingbirds, palm warblers, boat-tailed grackles, white ibises, herons, egrets, anhingas, gallinules, pelicans and the LBJs (little brown jobbers) that play tag with the surf.

young evergreen oak

Around my mother's place (just north of West Palm Beach), the pesky non-native carrotwood trees (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) have been ripped out, as well as the brittle non-native Acacia auriculiformis. Replacing them here and around the region are native evergreen oaks, millions of them. The feel of southern Florida will change radically as these plants mature -- given adequate space for the roots, they can be massive. They are variable in overall shape, but some grow twice as wide as they do tall. Visit a place like Cumberland Island National Park off southern Georgia if you want a good view of how spectacular these things can be. 

The native sand-dune pioneer seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera, in the buckwheat family) is getting much wider use in the landscape. I was surprised to see that this plant seems to have suffered from earlier frost damage (as did specimens of the popular and showy Tabebuia genus).

Casuarina foliage
There remain places where the horrible Australian-pine (Casuarina equisetifolia and relatives) has been allowed to persist. If you are not familiar with this plant, it superficially looks much lot like a conifer, but the 'needles' are segmented and the trees produce proper flowers (vs cones). I've recently read more about how escaped members of this genus have done tremendous damage to the ecosystems in the Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii and elsewhere.

Like in most of the US, landscape maintenance at condos and commercial sites goes to the low bidder. Thus you have hedges of hibiscus trimmed like a boxwood (if a flower sticks up, you know it's time to trim again). And privet trees trimmed into mushrooms. And oaks planted along high-voltage wires.

careful: it might flower!

Of course there are so many sad things to say about Florida's ecosystem. In my personal experience, it is mind-boggling how little of the Atlantic coastal hammock forest remains -- we're talking tens of acres over a space of hundreds of miles. I don't think I'm exaggerating by much. When the Nature Conservancy re-claimed a bit of land in north Palm Beach County, they literally had to clear-cut every stitch of vegetation and start from scratch with nursery grown plants. I'm sure the PR task was as challenging for them as the actual landscape management.

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