Part 6, Florida trip
Florida is crazy with life. Named by the Spanish, Florida means Feast of Flowers, and it’s no exaggeration. It’s as I imagine the Garden of Eden would be, and it’s obvious why people think the Fountain of Youth is here. I mean, the place is littered with air plants for crying out loud! Plants that need but a bit of water and sun to live, and they grow everywhere – on trees, on houses, on telephone wires… they are magical!
Sphagnum Moss grows on all the trees, giving the landscape a gothic flavor. It must be impossible to not have a green thumb here. Mangrove trees have a wild root system that is half above ground/water. It’s a natural barrier for flooding, but of course man-made projects have put the mangrove forests in jeopardy, including at Everglades National Park, where a 1960s dam project sent a lot of sea water into a fresh water area, causing environmental chaos.
I’m truly surprised I didn’t step on a lizard – they are always underfoot, and extremely cute. I saw mostly Anole. They are territorial, and Zannah has two who sleep every night in the begonia plant next to her front door. Of course their names are Begonia Lizard and Little Begonia Lizard. (Ps, my teenage punk name was Lizard.)
Also myriad are frogs, crazy birds, alligators. I helped a baby snapping turtle cross the road in Everglades National Park, and a wonderful Gopher Tortoise cross the road near the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. The tortoise was warm and slow and its shell had a very pleasing texture. I understand why people want tortoises for pets but DON’T DO IT! This lil’ creature was over a foot long and warmed by the sun.
I saved an adorable little invasive Cuban Treefrog who jumped into my car as I was packing up my tent in the Kissimmee prairie park. A treefrog, yet we were camped pretty far from any trees.
I saw a dying rattlesnake in the road that some people had (I think intentionally) run over. (People are jerks, but I guess it was good to know there were rattlers in the area before I pitched my tent nearby.)
Everyone said I would get sick of seeing alligators everywhere by the time I left FLA, but I really didn’t see that many, and it was always exciting. They are so weird and cool! I saw a nice big crocodile in the Everglades, and it showed off its big teeth for me. A group of us gaped at manatees playing in the surf at the Everglades, although we could only see bits of them at a time. Nice to know they were there, though.
It’s not surprising that so many introduced creatures prosper here. It’s definitely the kind of place snakes and lizards and old folk and whatnot want to live. People, please don’t buy exotic pets. And definitely don’t let them go when you’re sick of them.
As expected, the bird situation was off the hook. I picked up a great bird book at an excellent library book sale in Gainesville.
I spotted Brown Pelican from the African Queen in Key Largo, and a second in the Everglades.
Pied-Billed Grebe, Anhinga, White (morph of) Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis (these little guys acted like seagulls at the beach, looking for handouts and making beautiful nuisances of themselves), Black Vultures (I love these guys) (for the definition of schadenfreude, click here),
Limpkin (so cute!), Laughing Gulls, beautiful crows.
Plus Boat-Tailed Grackle to name a few. I didn’t get to see any Flamingos or Roseate Spoonbill due to seasonal timing, so I guess I’ll have to go back.
Also, did I mention FLORIDA HAS MERMAIDS!