Not all of our Florida natives are photogenic. The purple bankclimber, a rare freshwater mussel, is an unglamorous inhabitant of only two river systems in Florida: the Apalachicola and the Ochlockonee, both in the Panhandle. It is a “bivalve” meaning it has two hard shell coverings with a soft interior and a hinge to open and close the shells.
Longleaf pine was once the dominate tree in the Southeast. It is estimated that it occupied 90 million acres. Now due to harvesting, conversion of much of this land to other uses, and the restriction of wildfires, it only occupies 3 percent of its original range.
Land owned by St. Joe Paper Company (St. Joe Company, until 1966) was planted in slash pine.
A threatened species, the Gulf sturgeon is an ancient fish that grows up to eight feet long and weighs up to 300 pounds!
Water is an essential part of healthy wildlife habitats, including our gardens, yards and neighborhoods. When creating a backyard habitat it’s important to provide water along with food and cover. Many of us, while at home, have spent more time watching birds, planting native plants for food, maybe putting up bird feeders to provide an extra snack. Providing a birdbath brings even more birdwatching opportunities.
River otters seem to embody playfulness as they roll and chase and even wrestle each other in their aquatic habitats. Weighing between 11 and 30 pounds, otters have been in North America for almost two million years per fossil records.
We can thank pollinators for much of the food we eat. In fact, about 80% of our plants and crops are pollinated by insects. We know and love our butterflies and moths as pollinators and often help them by creating welcoming habitats in garden spaces large and small. Did you know that bees and wasps are much more efficient pollinators? They do much of the heavy lifting of pollinating plants, especially food crops.
One of our most beautiful amphibians, marbled salamanders live in North Florida and only grow to about four inches as adults. Their preferred habitats include damp woods and areas with soft, wet soil.
Florida Gulf Coast University's (FGCU) Wings of Hope Panther Posse program invites you and your whole family to participate in an online scavenger hunt!
Bluebirds, seven inches in length fully grown, have a blue back and head and yellow-brown and white chest and belly. They live in meadows, open woods, parklands, and even in neighborhoods with tall trees and some lawns with borders of large shrubs. They build nests in cavities such as holes in trees, fence posts or well-designed nest boxes where the female lays four to six pale blue eggs. When nesting, they become very territorial and are known to dive bomb cats to drive them away from the nest. Bluebirds thrive on a diet of caterpillars and insects and will also eat berries if available.