20 March 2010

Indiana South?

The reason it's been a bit slow lately at Through Handlens and Binoculars is that I've been very busy doing vegetation surveys in Florida. Although it is approximately 1200 miles south of my home, I see a lot of similarities between Florida and northern Indiana: pancake-flat topography, heavy agriculture and cattle farming, abundant area that was historically wetland that has since been drained by ditches, and sandy soils deposited by historic water bodies are just the tip of the iceberg.

That said, there are obviously plenty of differences as well. The photo above shows a Florida dry prairie, dominated by Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), Bottlebrush Three-awn (Aristida spiciformis), and a variety of forb species. Dry prairies in Florida, like in northern Indiana, require fire to keep them from undergoing succession and becoming shrub- or tree-dominated communities. The sandy soils of Florida dry prairies are acidic, leading to an abundance of Ericaceous shrubs including Shiny Blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites) and Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida).

The photo immediately above and those below show what I would consider hydric hammocks, or wet forest. In the photo above, Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) drapes the branches of an oak (Quercus sp.).

Above, epiphytes including Spanish Moss, Small Ballmoss (Tillandsia recurvata), Giant Airplant (Tillandsia fasciculata), and Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides, aka Polypodium polypodioides) blanket the trunks and branches of the canopy. Cabbage Palmetto (Sabal palmetto) is also often an important component of this community.

The photo above shows yet another hydric hammock with a dense fern understory consisting of species such as Toothed Midsorus Fern (Blechnum serrulatum), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), Netted Chainfern (Woodwardia areolata), and Virginia Chainfern (Woodwardia virginica). Trees common in this wetland included Red Maple (Acer rubrum var. trilobum), Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and Water Oak (Quercus nigra), while the subcanopy was dominated by Dahoon (Ilex cassine) and Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera, aka Myrica cerifera).

I'll post a few more photos from my trip as I get caught up.

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