Scrub Discovery Nature Trail
Home Trail Map Introduction Saw Palmetto Scrub Oaks Scrub and Saw Palmetos Blueberries and Fetterbush Fallen Sand Pine Prickly Pear Cactus Small Clearing Sand Pines Pawpaw South Florida Slash Pine Gopher Apple Bridge and Ditch Nest Box Lichens and Contrasting Pines Altered Drainage Turkey Oak Scrub Hickory Silk Bay Open Scrubby Flatwoods and Rusty Lyonia Sugar Sand Weather Station

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Altered Drainage


Liatris ohlingerae
Scrub Blazing Star
art by M Deyrup


click to enlarge
This site appears to have been a seasonal pond before the drainage ditch reduced the seasonal high water level. The ring of Saw Palmettos that characteristically surrounds seasonal ponds can still be seen. Even a few seasonal pond plants still persist including Edison's Hypericum (Hypericum edisonianum). This hypericum is a small-leaved, erect, shrubby plant found only in a few moist habitats in a restricted area of south-central Florida. It is on Florida's Threatened Species List. Another unusual plant seen here is the Scrub Blazing Star (Liatris ohlingerae), a rare scrub endemic. It is a perennial that blooms in the summer and is pollinated by butterflies. Total world distribution stretches from here to about 60 miles north at Lake Wales and is, at present, limited to the few remaining tracts of scrub within this area.

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Turkey Oak


click to enlarge
Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis) is the only local oak that looks "oak-like" to visitors from the north. Turkey Oak loses its leaves during the winter, and was so named because the leaves resemble a turkey's foot. Like other oak species on the Nature Trail, Turkey Oak acorns are dispersed by birds and mammals, however, Turkey Oak is not clonal. Note the lichens growing on the tree trunk. The area opposite Marker #16 was last burned on 6 November 1990, having been previously burned in 1927. A burn was prescribed for this area because it was overgrown and needed a reduction of fuel, particularly due to its close proximity to Station buildings. After the burn, soil productivity was increased and more sunlight reached the surface, promoting germination of seeds. Some of these seeds had been resting in the soil for years. Often, after recent fires, rare plants can be seen growing e.g. Scrub Buckwheat (Eriogonum longifolium), Pigeon-wings (Clitoria fragrans), and Pine Lily (Lilium catesbaei).

Turkey Oak
Quercus laevis
Turkey Oak
art by M Deyrup

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Scrub Hickory

Scrub Hickory
Carya floridana
Scrub Hickory
art by M Deyrup


click to enlarge
Scrub Hickory (Carya fioridana), found only in the scrub areas of southern and central Florida, normally produces only a single stem. However, when the above-ground stem is burned, several new stems sprout from the root crown. Compact clumps of stems are characteristic of hickories that have sprouted after a fire. Hickory nuts are edible for humans as well as squirrels. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) (winter residents in Florida) have drilled many holes in the trunks of this hickory, to enjoy a taste of the sap that seeps into the holes.

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Silk Bay


click to enlarge
The Silk Bay (Persea humilis), located on the opposite side of the trail from the Marker, is a small scrub tree with narrow leaves whose lower sides are covered with shiny reddish-brown hairs. When bruised, the leaves smell like those used in cooking. However, a different bay tree, which is a close relative, produces bay leaves for cooking. The Silk Bay is also related to the Avocado. On the right side of the trail are several Tar-flower shrubs. The name refers to the sticky buds and outer sides of the white petals that bloom in June. Sticky material protects the flowers from flower-eating and nectar-robbing insects. Bees, the legitimate flower visitors, are occasionally trapped on the plant.

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Open Scrubby Flatwoods and Rusty Lyonia

Rusty Lyonia
Lyonia feruginea
Rusty Lyonia
art by M Deyrup



Staggerbush
Lyonia fruticosa
Staggerbush
art by M Deyrup


click to enlarge
This area of open, scrubby flatwoods is characteristic of recently burned areas. Florida Scrub-Jays formerly inhabited this area, but disappeared in 1976 because fire had been excluded for more than 50 years. Prescribed burns took place in 1990 and 1992 in those areas, resulting in the Florida Scrub-Jays recolonizing here in 1995. The Archbold Biological Station has a fire management plan devised to maintain the maximum possible diversity of habitats. Areas all over the Station are burned at different time intervals, and a few tracts will be
Rusty Lyonia
click to enlarge
permanently excluded from fire as experimental plots. Fetterbush and several oak species can be seen here. Immediately to the right of the Marker is Staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa), a clonal shrub very closely related to Fetterbush. The leaves are grey-green and often moldy looking beneath. Leaves near the tips of branches are much smaller than those lower on the stems. A very similar shrub, Rusty Lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea)

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or "crooked wood", which has curled leaves, also occurs along the trail. Both the common and scientific names describe the rusty brown color of the new foliage. At the base of the marker is a clump of Wiregrass (Aristida stricta), one of the most abundant grasses in flatwoods and sandhill ecosystems.

This grass only flowers and sets seed immediately or during the first and second years after a fire. Thus, the presence of Wiregrass is another indicator that this area has always been subject to frequent burning.

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"Sugar-sand"

Sugar Sand
click to enlarge
This fire lane shows the "sugar-sand" characteristic of the Lake Wales Ridge. Named "sugar-sand" because of its similarity in color, texture, and pouring characteristics to sugar; it drains rapidly, and is a very poor source of nutrients. This sand was deposited as coastal dunes, when sea levels were higher. All calcium, from shell fragments, has long since been leached away. Plants growing on this sand must be capable of capturing scarce nutrients. Many form symbiotic associations with fungi (mycorrhizae) which can obtain nutrients directly from decomposing organic matter. Most of the mushrooms, which appear along the trail (during fall or after moist weather), are the fruiting bodies of mycorrhizal fungi.

Tracks
art © Turid Forsyth

Many rare herbaceous plants colonize the disturbed

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ground of fire lanes. This fire lane is a good place to observe the tracks of various animals. Half of this fire lane is dragged, smoothing out the sand, so that animal tracks can be easily seen You are welcome to walk beside the smooth area looking for tracks, but please do not step into the area. The best time for finding tracks is after a rain or in the morning, when moisture is still in the air and the shadows help to define the shape of the track. When observing animal tracks, look for clear tracks in which you can count the number of toes, and can see a pattern in a series of steps. Even with unclear tracks, you can often identify them by the placement of the front and back feet, as well as using measurements of the size of the print and distance between prints. A few common prints are drawn here for your information.

Tracks
art © Turid Forsyth

Ant Lions are the larvae of a group of insects called Neuroptera, which includes lacewings. Fascinating insect larvae, they move backward most of the time, and are often called doodlebugs. Active day and night, larval Ant Lions are usually light gray or brown and have long curved jaws on tiny heads. Some species build deep funnel pits to capture prey, lying in wait at the bottom of the pit, others leave a unique doodle-like trail in the sand as they actively hunt for prey. They may be found along the trail and alongside buildings.

Ant Lions
art © Turid Forsyth

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss
click to enlarge
The gray, moss-like plant hanging from the trees is Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). This plant is a bromeliad, closely related to the pineapple. Several other bromeliads can be seen growing on the trees along the trail. All are "epiphytes" or plants which use other plants for support. They are not parasites, as they obtain all their nutrients and moisture from wind-blown dust and precipitation, and not from the plant on which they are fastened.


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Weather Station

Weather Station
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As you return to the main grounds, you will pass the weather station. The Archbold Biological Station maintains one of the official weather stations which report data to the U.S. National Weather Service. Climatological data are important to much of the research done at all biological research stations. The white box with slatted sides contains thermometers for monitoring air and soil temperature. The large cylinder that looks like a milk-can collects rainfall. In addition, the Station maintains instruments for measuring evaporation (the large pan of water), wind (the twirling cups), and solar radiation.

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