Thursday, January 17, 2008

January 2008

A lot of exciting news to share with everyone! More and more atala corridors are being established throughout Broward County with the help of butterfly enthusiasts in Plantation, Davie and Hollywood. My colony count at present is over 150 sites! Some people are really helping by sending me updates about their colonies, which helps me determine answers to some of our burning questions: How many coontie plants does a stable colony need to have (25+)? What are the factors involved in the butterfly’s classic “irruption/crash” cycle? How many and what kind of nectar should you be planting to keep the colony around? How far are they capable of dispersing on their own?

I want to especially thank Marilyn Griffiths at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden for her frequent updates on the colony at Fairchild. That is a huge garden of course, with many coonties and nectar sources, and there is a great corridor surrounding the garden as well. Our colony at Nova Southeastern University is in a downswing right now, but I suspect that it will soon be flourishing again. We have new nectar sources ready, and twenty new host plants awaiting atala-the-hun demolition. This is me, Dr. Joshua Feingold, Dr. Charles Messing, and Dr. Eileen Smith-Cavros, all of whom have been involved in one way or another with the atala, in the Mesozoic Garden on campus. (I need to get to work on that PhD!)

Speaking of nectar, Florida Entomologist will be publishing my atala nectar sources in the March 2008 issue. I will download the article for all to read as soon as it is published. You can’t go wrong with small white flowers of any kind! And Wildland Weeds, published by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, published my article about the on-going work at John Williams Park (JWP) in the Winter 2007 issue.

The programs at JWP (6101 Sheridan St, Hollywood) are continuing monthly or more. Jessica Cook and her Hollywood Hills High School classmates hosted a student work-force visiting from Columbia on January 5th, 2008, and they worked hard all morning removing Oyster Plant (Tradescantia spathacea) as that is one of the easiest plants to identify. Rain notwithstanding, the kids worked hard and were rewarded with lunch provided by the Kiwanis Club in Hollywood. The kids found the workshop through the City of Hollywood website, which is very encouraging to all of us. These are pictures of the dedicated, rain-drenched volunteers hard at work.

The exciting news is that the nature trail was finally completed at Sheridan Oak Forest Natural Area (during which I was, at times, a few hundred yards ahead of the bulldozer, scrambling to move native plants out of the line of fire!) The trail is made of crushed limestone and meanders nicely through the woods in the south end of the area, avoiding any impact on the wetlands or gopher tortoise’s home. Some broken branches needed to be trimmed, requiring the help of Public Works, and great cooperation by the crew hired to cut the trail we marked out a few weeks ago! It’s starting to look good in the open area, so we’ll be concentrating on removing the seedlings of Caesar’s Weed, Rosary Pea, Balsam Pear and Air Potato from the areas around the trail for the next few months.

The next Exotic Invasive Plant Removal Program at John Williams Park, will take place on February 24th, 2008 from 1-4 PM, and will have the help of loyal student volunteers from Hollywood Hills High School. Bring your gloves, garden tools, water and sunscreen; I advise you wear long pants, and long sleeves as some of the work involves “diggin’ in the dirt” kind of fun! I will be instructing in distinguishing native from non-native plants, of course. Everyone is invited to particpate!

Meanwhile, other organizations and schools are getting involved with this gem of a park. Kids Ecology Corps visited on January 3rd for a program, and a middle school wants to plant more flowers. Now that the south end of the park has more space for flowering nectar sources, everyone at Hollywood Parks and Recreation is eagerly looking forward to planting native for the wildlife and the people who enjoy it. Master Gardeners, we’re looking for native flowering plants (hint, hint….)
I recently completed the National Wildlife Stewardship Training program, too. That was great fun! One of the highlights for me was finally being in Tree Tops Park with others who had cameras so I could have my picture taken on top of the highest point in Broward County, a whopping 28 feet above sea level…and I am not lying, my sea-level ears popped on the way up. Here is a picture of this year’s graduating NWF Stewards standing around this majestic slash pine on the point.

We visited a lot of sites during the week, including Flamingo Gardens, where we delighted in the sight of the flaming neon flamingoes!

And this poor Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly could be aptly re-named "Ragged Daggerwing"...but there is a new generation ready to take it's place!
And what could be more exciting to a lepidopterist than the sight of a Malachite butterfly shimmering in the sunlight?
I’ll be speaking about the atala and its history at Coconut Creek Garden Club, COCONUT CREEK'S RECREATION NORTH COMPLEX - CYPRESS ROOM,
4455 Sol Press Blvd., Coconut Creek 33073 ( in case you want to Mapquest it)
(Intersection of Lyons Road & Johnson Road) Their number is (954) 956-1580
on February 21, 2008 at 7 PM. If you’ve missed “Butterflies, Botany and Battlefields” in the past, this is your chance to learn how Florida’s history impacted the atala, and its host plant influenced history.

This photo of a gator and reflected clouds was taken at Big Cypress while I was "at work" in the field sure beats sitting between four walls all day!


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