The Fakahatchee Strand is located in the southwest area of Florida, part of the Everglades. This state park is unique in many ways. The first, it is the only ecosystem in the world where bald cypress trees and royal palms share the same forest canopy. But that was not the reason for today’s hike. It was the search for native bromeliads, those airplants that cling to trees.
But maybe first, a quick word on what is a strand. We all know what a marsh (wetland dominated by grasses) and a swamp (a wetland dominated by woody trees) is, but a strand? A Ssrand is a shallow, forested, usually elongated depression or channel situated in a trough within a limestone plane, dominated primarily by bald cypress. Glad we got that official definition out of the way. So with dive booties, Sportif ’s shorts, old T-shirt, and my trusty hat, into the shadows I started.
Before stepping into the Strand, a couple of snake hunters warned me of the moccasins. In case you didn’t know, all venomous snakes in the United States can be placed in four categories: rattlesnakes, copperhead, coral, and the cottonmouth. The last one, the locals call the water moccasin. Great, I’m hiking in a wetland, good place to find a six foot serpent. Florida can claim to have all four categories of these poison injectors. And we call this paradise.
Plus, with the vulture staring at me, maybe today was not a good day to slosh around in the muddy waters. I did ask if there were any sightings of pythons. They replied, ”No, not really. You need to go a few miles farther south to see those guys.” Yea, like I going to do that.
This vulture did follow me for a ways, flapping his black wings from tree top to tree top. After coming across an alligator hide, I didn’t think this bird was a good sign.
Even though I have 14 of the 16 native Florida species of bromeliads, I can’t tell them apart in the wild. I can see the differences, but the names of the plants won’t come to me. That doesn’t really bother me, I’m there to look at the different pretty plants. Please note, the photos are not crooked, the plants grow sideways from the tree.
The sun’s ray found a hole in the tree canopy and lighted the inside of this Tillandsia. The green leaves turned red. The fasciculata is considered endangered. At one time, a prize plant for collectors to send north to buyers. However, the exotic mexican bromeliad weevil is the main reason this plant is scarce. Although it seems to be doing very well in the Strand.
This plant flowers all year and the flower stalk can reach up to two feet.
Even though the Tillandsia setacea is classified as common and not threatened, it is still a beautiful airplant. The long green leaves with a red tinge pop out in the shadows. I’ve seen this plant attached to trees from waist level to almost to the tree tops. It seems to like the shade to for its “hanging out” area.
This guy surprised Kitty and me. Take a close look at his leaf. It has a light green veriegated strip down the center. For plant connoisseurs, this is a rarity. Kind of like the icing on the cake. This phase is not supposed to happen in the wild, only in controlled nurseries. So much for that idea. This is the only bromeliad in the Guzmania genus. I image it is a very lonely plant, or maybe it feels special. The Guzmania monostachia is considered rare, but if you find one, you’ll find hundreds in close proximity. Again, this one is also considered endangered.
Bromeliads are easy plants to care for. Stick them onto a tree and forget it. It is when people plant them in the ground or take them indoors that problems occur. You must work to keep the weeds from overpowering them and they get the correct amount of water. Too much sun will also kill them.
And bromeliads are easy plants to love, as seen by this barred owl perched over a Tillandsia.
Until next time.