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Posts tagged ‘fern forest’

Chasing Florida Flutterbys

On our hikes, we often stumble upon areas of flurried butterfly activity, due to Florida’s abundant all-year blooms. The most common encounter is the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius), designated as the official state butterfly of Florida in 1996 (something I just learned). No wonder it’s the state butterfly; it’s found throughout Florida in hardwood hammocks, swamps, gardens, and in the Everglades.

It’s tempting to want to cheat and run to Butterfly World to nab some prime shots of our butterflies, but for now I like to rely on the natural environs. We’ve spied some lovelies — swallowtails, sulphurs, whites, milkweeds and longwings — but sometimes, they just don’t want to pose for the camera. Or if they do, and aren’t as shy as the others, they rest in unfortunate spots — I find myself plowing through beastly banana spider webs, or trampling through swamp, to chase butterflies.

For More Information:

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Riverbend Park

Poplar Sphinx Moth or Poplar Hawk Moth Larva, Big Cypress National Preserve

A Picnic at Fern Forest

As is our modus operandi (read: cheap activity these days), we grabbed an insanely delicious LaSpada’s subs, and headed out to Fern Forest in Broward County for a picnic and casual hike. It’s a bit of a haul for us, but we wanted to take advantage of Florida’s overcast weather with Tropical Storm Emily. Although she didn’t quite make it to land, enough of her bands reached us, and we had to make a run for it out of the trails. The flutterbys were active, and I was chasing them like a crazed lunatic with my camera to no avail. And the banana spiders, oh my. Oh my. They’ve obviously been busy, with their gigantic (but non-toxic) selves. I crashed into a few of their expansive webs, chasing butterflies. Dave’s especially enthralled with spiders, consistently offering better leverage for close-ups. Right-o.

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Fern Forest Nature Center

Fern Forest, 247 acres in entirety, is a magnificent conservation site and wildlife refuge located in Broward County, Florida, taking its name from the myriad ferns — more than 30 species — found on its grounds. In 1979, scientists from FAU and Broward Community College (now Broward College) wrote about the area’s botanical diversity in their article “A Tropical Fern Grotto in Broward County, Florida.” The researchers characterized the site as “the last remaining stronghold of ferns in southeastern Florida.” This beautiful and diverse natural area represents the last remnant of the historical Cypress Creek floodway. Authorized in the early 1900s to create more suitable farming land, the Cypress Creek drainage system and the surrounding areas have a long history as farmland, first for such crops as pineapples, tomatoes, beans, and peppers, and later for dairy farming, logging and milling.

Fern Forest remains a significant refuge for wildlife in this highly urbanized region, and hosts many educational activities, conservation events, and nature programs. A reception hall, an ampitheater, and picnic areas and protective shelters are provided within its nature center. The park encompasses 10 plant communities, including a tropical hardwood hammock, an open prairie, and a cypress-maple swamp. Three main trails are offered: The Cypress Creek Trail (a wonderful boardwalk); The Prairie Overlook Trail, which includes a 20-foot-tall observation platform; and the Maple Walk (my favorite!), through an often soggy red maple swamp. Fern Forest was awarded “Best of” from the Broward/Palm Beach New Times for:

  • 2009 – Best Nature Trail
  • 2007 – Best Nature Trail
  • 2005 – Best Place to Birdwatch

LaSpada’s Subs is nearby, even better! We like to grab some grub for a picnic, before our walks either here or at nearby Tree Tops park… Upcoming post.

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