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Inside the Cypress Swamp

On the heels of Earth Day, I wanted to share an *internal* vision of one of the few remaining cypress swamps lining the Everglades…. It’s part of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and I spend much time there — and you can probably see why. It’s utterly beautiful. Just magnificent. We’re tentatively leaving the dry season here in South Florida (our daily afternoon rains haven’t quite started — that will be May), but the swamp is slowly coming into its glory, thanks to some plentiful April rainfall.

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Like most of Florida’s cypress, this area was thoroughly logged in the ’40s — so while the trees aren’t first-generation cypress, they’re beautiful nonetheless — and thankfully, they’re now protected by various federal and state agencies! In this swamp, among the bald and pond cypress there are also pond apple trees, as well as different species of ferns, some twice as large as I stand. It’s just magical. I always picture this land covered by such a vista…. Which, in the human timeline, wasn’t that long ago.

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A dense vista

This wetland habitat supports an incredible amount of life, although much less than it did in years past. Butterflies, alligator, snakes, frogs, bobcats, otter, birds of every variety, and raptors make their homes here. Larger predators, including panther and bear, would have freely roamed. And it’s fantastic: You may HEAR the Great-horned owl, but try finding him. If you’re not quiet and gentle out there — and observant — you’ll miss everything.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Dragonfly in Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Glowing dragonfly

Southern Leopard Frog, Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Southern leopard frog just missed his meal ticket of a dragonfly, but hasn’t given up… Using his PERFECT camouflage

Red-bellied Cooter (Turtle), Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A Red-bellied Cooter sunning on a fallen log in the swamp = JOY!

Black Racer Snake, Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

A well-hidden and quite harmless Black racer tries to sleep

Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Looking up into the beautiful young cypress trees of the swamp

54 Comments Post a comment
  1. Pat #

    We visited the Corkscrew Conservancy which has a cypress swamp. I agree that it is a magical place to be – and the cypress can grow really big if protected. You took some wonderful shots.

    April 24, 2013
    • Ah, this is a very, VERY famous swamp! They do some amazing conservation work…. And shockingly, I have yet to visit (it’s a few hours north, but NO excuse!). 🙂

      Thanks so very much!

      April 24, 2013
  2. As always, your blog calms, and raises, my spirit. Thanks.

    April 24, 2013
    • What wonderful and lovely words…. Thanks so VERY much! This place, this swamp, does just that for me. I often bring my writing journal out here, and it’s hit or miss whether the bugs chase me away, hee!

      April 24, 2013
  3. You do such a wonderful job capturing the spirit and beauty of the wild! Thank you for sharing. Today is a rare sunny warm spring day in the Pacific Northwest, and I plan to spend as much of it in the forest as I can. On days like this, when everything is fresh and growing so richly, the forest seems to fairly sing with life.

    April 24, 2013
    • What a wonderful thing to say — those words are honestly an utmost compliment for me, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart! These spaces are some of my favorites, and it’s a tragedy what we, as a species, have done to them. But we’re now aware (I think….)!

      Ohhhh, I’m incredibly jealous though, of your PNW adventures! I do miss it. “Sings with life”…. That’s just beautiful.

      April 24, 2013
  4. Have you had the good fortune to see the breathtaking Ghost Orchid?
    It is my fondest wish to do this, but because of Breanna , not very likely~
    We have never been away from her since we brought her home as a puppy,
    there is a long story to go with this….

    April 24, 2013
    • You know… I don’t know!! I always second-guess myself, hah! I hike the swamps ALL the time. I see white flowers. But I don’t want to disturb the environment too much, so I never go in for a closer look. So have I? 🙂

      Ohhhh….! What kind of puppy? At that age, or any age really, they’re BABIES! So much attention is needed! I know, I know!

      April 24, 2013
  5. Loving going for a walk about in the swamp – Great Captures:) Have a Great Day!

    April 24, 2013
    • It’s a WONDERFUL, amazing walk… So relaxing, so gentle, full of such sounds. 🙂

      Happy day to you!

      April 24, 2013
  6. Have a page devoted to the Ghost Orchid on my gator woman web site, and no surprise,
    it has the most hits of any page on the whole site~
    It is so spectacular, but I worry about it, people are determined to steal it.
    The fools don’t understand it will not survive away from the swamps.
    As for the “puppy,” you can click on Breanna on my WP Blog and see her life in pictures,
    since we brought her home.
    She has been the center of our universe from day one~

    April 24, 2013
    • Gawd almighty. People are the stupidest, most selfish creatures on this planet. I honestly have probably seen it, but can’t say so with complete positivity, because I didn’t want to trample through the sensitive swamp. But heck, they have no qualms trampling through the swamp AND (illegally) stealing the endangered flora. Awesome.

      Ohhhh….. Going to your site now. 🙂

      April 24, 2013
  7. These are wonderful photos. Yes….quiet and gentle. I wonder what effect that would have on city folk touring the wild. Would it touch their souls? Being quiet might teach gentleness.

    April 24, 2013
    • Thanks so very much…. You’re exactly right: I would HOPE that these kinds of spaces would have this effect. But from what I’ve seen, it’s more a Disneyworld for them. Sadly. Not all, of course! I only hear the exceptionally loud tourists and visitors. 🙂

      April 24, 2013
  8. jimbey #

    …. I really enjoy walking in that cypress swamp – and it is one of the few places that is actually more beautiful on a cloudy/rainy day. The quiet, dark and fragrant atmosphere lends the place a wonderful, Tolkien feel. Are Ents on the protected species list?

    April 24, 2013
    • Very good observation…. These spaces really do have a Tokein-esque feel to them! Very beautiful and mysterious.

      April 24, 2013
  9. I was captured by the various types of camouflage vs the obvious display… the turtle vs the dragonfly. One growing plants on its back, the other a garish red and blue. Nature is as marvelous as it is mysterious. Thanks, as always, for sharing your wonderful world FeyGirl.

    April 24, 2013
    • Ah, that’s always my favorite part of these visits — to any swamp ecosystem! If you’re not looking carefully (or not looking, depending on your perspective), and if you’re not silent, you’ll miss it ALL.

      The various camouflage never fails to amaze…. And then, a spot of brilliant color. Truly brilliant. Thanks so much for your kind words. 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  10. I would love to visit an area like that! Thanks for the wonderful photos that will have to suffice for now.

    April 24, 2013
    • I’m so glad I could share this amazing, beautiful place and habitat with you… It truly is magical. I hope you get to visit such a place in person, one day!! 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  11. Thank you for sharing your beautiful environment and a few of the creatures who call it home! It’s definitely my kind of place! I simply must head a little ways south soon!

    April 24, 2013
    • Thanks so very much…. I really don’t do it justice, I know — I refuse to use the flash, because I don’t want to *disturb* the flow of things. But it’s just magical; always some of my favorite spaces!!

      April 25, 2013
  12. It’s a magical kingdom housing strange and wondrous creatures and vegetation. Thanks for these wonderful photos and your insight into another world.

    April 24, 2013
    • EXACTLY! That’s truly how I see it…. And it’s our duty to save what few of these magical spaces remain. I can’t fathom not having them in our lives.

      Thanks so very much — I’m glad to share a bit of the swamp life! 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  13. This must be an exciting place to visit, gently and quietly! 🙂

    April 24, 2013
    • Ah, they’re some of my favorite places, for sure!! And as you say… GENTLY and QUIETLY. To me, simply being there induces this state.

      April 25, 2013
  14. What an absolutely wonderful location! Natures beauty on full display!

    April 24, 2013
    • These ecosystems are just amazingly beautiful…. It boggles the mind that there are so few remaining. Full of life! You would love it, especially with your bigger lens — much needed out here!

      April 25, 2013
  15. hannekekoop #

    Indeed, a magical place. Lovely photos, Feygirl and what a fantastic turtle. 🙂

    April 24, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! This is truly a magical place… Your fairies would love it!

      Ah, I love that turtle. He seemed so happy, perched there in the ray of sun. 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  16. Pam #

    Gorgeous! The swamp is really special!

    April 24, 2013
    • Thanks so much…! These places, especially the cypress swamps, are pure magic. So full of LIFE!

      April 25, 2013
  17. aubrey #

    OTTERSOTTERSOTTERSOTTERS!!!!!
    (Aubrey has to fan herself)

    When Boyfriend and I saw a pair of sea otters in Monterey (in the actual OCEAN, not in the aquarium!) we were stupified with delight.

    I love this post with its gentle photographs, but I think what I love most about this is the remote Great-horned owl, who remains in hiding.

    April 24, 2013
    • Hahahah!! Oh, thanks for the laugh…. I KNOW THOUGH!! Otters! I’m the same as you.

      You know what @(#(@# beyond compare? Otters are so shy, right? But when I did stumble across a particularly playful, bold otter out there…. NO CAMERA. What? What? WHAT? And to this day, I’ve only seen them dive away from me. Nice.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. It really is a gentle, magical place, and it’s such a compliment to me that this was conveyed…. And the owls! They had BABIES! But my lens isn’t big enough (you need one of those real whoppers to catch them). BABY Great-horned owls!! (Fan, fan.)

      April 25, 2013
  18. Ok…seeing the snake..I just ran out of the room.

    Great and beautiful images. 🙂

    April 24, 2013
    • Hahahahha!!!! No lady — harmless! Totally harmless! They eat the RATS! 🙂

      On Sunday I hiked for 2 hours in the flatwoods, and nearly STEPPED on a sunning snake. Thank goodness, I would have had a heart attack if I hurt him.

      Thanks so much…..

      April 25, 2013
  19. WOW !!! WHAT A GORGEOUS PLACE!! THANK YOU!

    April 24, 2013
    • Ah, thanks so much!! So happy to share this beautiful, magical place with you. 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  20. Beautiful. Makes me want to go there.

    April 24, 2013
    • You would really love the swamp environments; they’re amazing places. And if you have a bigger lens, you might be able to do a bit more — although navigating may be tough. 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  21. The swamp really is beautiful!

    April 24, 2013
    • Ah, they really are… Some of my favorite spaces! Just magic.

      April 25, 2013
  22. What an awesome place! I would love to visit it.

    April 24, 2013
    • It really is amazing, one of my favorite ecosystems…. Some of the last truly wild spaces!! Here’s to keeping them safe for you and others to visit. 🙂

      April 25, 2013
  23. What a lovely area! I enjoyed all your photos, and it was a pleasure getting a peak at some of the critters who live here.

    April 25, 2013
    • I’m so glad to share a bit of the swamp life… I wish the images were a wee bit better (no flash, I don’t want to disturb the flow / critters) — but one can get the sense of things. It’s truly magical, so very beautiful — and I hope we can preserve what few of these spaces are left.

      April 25, 2013
  24. I like that you name things

    April 25, 2013
    • It’s so funny that you mention this (thanks, by the way!)… I just read a story about Nabokov and his nature-writing. Just fascinating. I have a post in process on it. Keep on eye out for it, you’ll enjoy! If I don’t know something, I try to research…or ask. LEARN! 🙂

      April 26, 2013
  25. Fascinating stuff. The photos are incredible, I especially enjoyed the Dragonfly and its cute little face.

    April 28, 2013
    • Thanks so very much! I love that dragonfly…. So gossamer and ethereal!

      April 30, 2013
  26. I just love this post … It contains everything that makes me happy .. Trees and animals and your so informative text ! Thank you. // Maria

    April 29, 2013
    • That’s exactly why I love this place…!! You would just ADORE it; I know you would!

      It’s heartbreaking that places like these are so rare to see, these days. We need to protect and love them more than ever. There’s so much beautiful and amazing LIFE here.

      April 30, 2013

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