Marnie L. Hutcheson

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Maybe we can at least catalog most of them before they are gone

Jack patrols 120th Forest Road at Shady Grove Preserve

Jack patrols 120th Forest Road at Shady Grove Preserve, Ocala Florida, USA

In 2010, we found a very old oak tree deep in the hardwood forest at Shady Grove.  It is draped around the edge of an ancient hog wallow in the middle of a palmetto grove.  It looks like a white oak, but has unusual smooth bark and sharp prongs on its leaves like a red oak.  After lots of research we found that it is most likely an Overland Oak.

Once we knew what we were looking for, we discovered that this very old tree has children all around her, many of them also of good age.

The tree books say that Overland Oak is native to (and only exists in) a small area in California.  This Oak is probably 300+ years old, and has undoubtedly been in Florida for all of those years; an entire continent separating it from its human ordained home.

While  the 1600 – 1700s were a time of heavy colonization, Florida’s inland jungles and mosquito swarms were no part of that activity.  And, while its possible that the native peoples planted this tree at Shady Grove, it is equally possible that the tree is simply a native.

The species list we have accumulated in the past 10 years at Shady Grove Preserve is ever growing, and contains many plants, animals, insects, and lizards that are considered “endangered”, or thought to be no more.  And, what about all the species that are simply not listed anywhere?

Well, enter 2012 on a hopeful note.  A  new ruling has just come into effect January 1, 2012:  

Classifying plants, algae and fungi can now be done in English and online.  

…”Something needs to streamline the process of naming, though, he (Brian Schrire of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England) says. Botanists are probably only about halfway through describing the plants on Earth, with roughly 200,000 species described. Yet only about 2,000 names get published a year at the current pace.”…

See the entire article at

In the last 150 years we have cut down and bulldozed most of the forests in our country (and indeed the world) in the name of jobs, progress and private property rights.   We have destroyed not only the trees, but the entire ecosystem that they support.  Clearly, we didn’t even know what was in them before we wasted them.

All through my lifetime, the National Forestry Service promised that they were replanting the forests that they cut down.  Well, you can’t grow a 200 year old tree in a 20 year plan.  And you can’t re-grow a forest if there isn’t enough water.  With global warming and all the new drought areas, forests are not likely to be coming back.  Our existing established woodlands are invaluable, and they need to be nurtured and  protected.

We find ‘new’ species each year at Shady Grove Preserve.  But due to the difficulty of verifying, and recording, we haven’t been able to do anything with this information, except publish these little blogs.  Now perhaps this will change.

I for one am glad that the price of diesel is going up and up.  Perhaps it will slow the bulldozers down and down.

Horses and Water Lilies

A cool horsey lunch in the hot August afternoon

Kozmo and Ebon enjoy a cool dip with their luncheon of Florida water grass

All the things that people think they know…

Before air conditioning, there was the pond. Before bagged food, there was natures bounty. Most folks pay a lot of money to “train” their horses to go into the water. I say, let nature take it’s course…. And a good summer is had by all.


July, the month for peas

Clitoria fragrans

Rare wild Sweetsented Pigeonwings Pea from Florida

I entered seven new plant species in the Shady Grove Preserve Species list this month. Five of them are endangered/rare Florida peas.  I found them because they were blooming.

With so many new species, I and ended up overwhelmed in research and this blog almost didn’t happen. There was just too much to say.  Understand, I am not writing this to discuss the fine points of species identification, but rather the amazing diversity, and adaptability of these little plants.

Here’s what happened… Early in July, lightning struck a 100+ year old hickory in the north east cornter of the preserve. When it fell, it also brought down good sized live oak, and they both landed on top of the tower road.  When I went out to see how the tree removal guys were doing, cleaning up the mess, I noticed these beautiful blossoms up in the mowed part of the eastern boundary that is actually 12oth Ave.  Fortunately no one drives there since my tower road is the road of choice, and because of the price of gas, I haven’t mowed there yet this season.

I returned with my camera an captured many images of these blossom covered little plants.  They smell wonderful.  I am reminded of iris. They also must taste great because it is clear from the holes in the blossoms that the buds get gnawed upon quite a bit.   (They are probably Sweetsented Pigeonwings Pea, Clitoria fragrans.)

When I showed these pictures to my daughter, she said, “Mom we have always had these, go look up at the dressage field.”  So, I did.  And, there were more peas.  Only these were different.  Growing in the shade along the trail, only one blossom per plant, more round, not so oval, and these didn’t smell. They are beautiful none the less. (They are probably Atlantic Pigeonwings Pea , Clitoria mariana.) 

I knew they were peas from the three leaves on each branch.  Peas are members of the Fabaceae family.  And so are a lot of other things.  The adventure continues in August; I have discovered 3 more species; blooming of course.

Thank heaven I haven’t been mowing these places.  I would never have seen these lovely native wild flowers.   Perhaps there are some benefits to the price of gas going up.  (Click on an image to see it full sized)


See more at:  

I Am a Trumpet Vine

This is a Trumpet Vine blossom (Campsis radicans) at Shady Grove Preserve in Ocala Florida. This graceful, hardy vine blooms throughout the month of June in Florida. They can live over 100 years; usually they are as old as the trees that they climb.

Contrary to popular belief, these vines do not harm trees, they are an important and beneficial part of the woodland ecosystem.  While it is true that trumpet vines can overwhelm a young tree, they rarely kill them. Trumpet vines live in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship with the trees and the woodlands.

Unlike the damaging vines that bind and constrict the trees; choking them.  The trumpet vines form a light and airy net through the tree tops. Their foliage adds shade the woodland floor, keeping it 10 – 20 degrees cooler than the sunlit fields. –Helping to hold moisture in the soil while giving squirels, birds, an assortment of reptiles and a wealth of insect life shelter and connections to the surrounding trees, –their own private habitat high above the ground.

Meanwhile, in the ground, the vine’s root system helps strengthen, and nourish the tree’s root system, making a stronger longer-lived tree.  Knitting the trees into woodlands, both above and below the ground, so that than none stand alone.  –Especially important in the face of hurricanes and such.

Killing these vines is harmful for the trees, the forest, and the wildlife, not to mention the loss of such proud and lusty blossoms

that make the trees bloom with color in the early summer heat,

and litter my cool and shady trails with red and orange trumpets…

Hickory Buds Blossom

Hickories, Pecans,  and Walnuts are all part of the Walnut Family, Juglandaceae.  They are better know for their nuts than for their blossoms.  But for some, like the Pignut Hickory the real show is the opening of the buds.

For those of you who think “buds” are just little green lumps, here is a marvelous example of nature being extravagant.  This young Pignut Hickory has a sensational and explosive budding ritual each spring.  Some of the other Hickories bud with bright yellow petals, but this one is red and pink and a real eye catcher in the woods.  From the ground, it looks like the whole tree is covered with red blossoms.

The greenish cluster at the center of this “bud” are the new leaflets emerging.  Once the buds begin to open, it only takes a couple of days for the leaflets to unfurl and go to work; cleaning our air, releasing the oxygen we need to breath and locking up the carbon (that is causing global warming) for as long as the tree shall live.

And another thing… The amount of nuts that these trees produce is amazing.  They can be almost 2 inches in diameter, but the actual nut meat is very small.  The wildlife eat them all through the winter and well into the spring.   I don’t care for them myself, they are bitter, but they make wonderful ammunition for my sling shot.

(Click on any image in the list to see it full sized)

When the Oklawaha Blackberry is very happy, it blooms double in honor of its mother, the Rose.

Oklawaha Double Bloom

I am an Oklawaha Blackberry.  My mother was a Rose.

The resemblance is striking wouldn’t you say?

The rose family contains more that 2800 species world wide.  In addition to all the ornamental trees and bushes, many/most of the fruits that we love best are also members of the Rose family; apples, cherries, peaches, almonds, and many types of berries including the blackberry.

The Spring of 2010 was a very wet spring for us at Shady Grove Preserve.  In the fields and the woodlands plants and trees bloomed as we have never seen before;  Some things we didn’t know could bloom at all showed us an amazing variety of fragrant color and grace.  And others, like the Oklawaha, who always bloom at least a little no matter how dry it is, bloomed with a profusion and an enthusiasm that was breathtaking.

Oklawaha blackberries bloom with 5 petals in a single circle.  – Except (apparently) when they are very very happy, and then they can bloom ‘double’.

In their simple celebration of the blessing of water, they give me hope and renew my belief in the power of life.

Blackberries: When is the best time to pick them?

Florigrande Blackberries ~ 10,000 years in cultivation

I have to admit I am in a quandry.

I can’t decide if I prefer the blackberry cooled by the night air and covered with dawns’ dew drops, fresh and tangy in my mouth and wetter than wet; waking me utterly.

Or, fat blackberry warmed by the afternoon sun and dry to the touch but bursting with juice, sweat and tart all at once in my mouth;  leaving my fingers purple and me,

feeling like an empress.

Guess I will take both!

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