Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. —
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In honor of the Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, who met after a long correspondence on May 20, 1845…and began one of the most celebrated love affairs in history. After much wooing, Browning finally convinced a shy and skeptical Barrett that he loved her “for naught except for love’s sake only.”
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I readily admit that my sense of direction is horrible. Which makes wanting to explore the more off-beaten trails a bit…difficult, to my family’s tremendous concern. There’s a lot of backtracking! But in visiting these places, a vision of natural Florida is allowed — and it’s divine.
Outside of the *ridiculous* number of gargantuan mosquitoes that swarmed as I carefully crept into this lovely swamp, it was a treat. I only hope that any human male who shows an interest in me in the future, will also understand my occasional mosquito attacks (not pretty). And the spider bites. And occasional wasp stings. I should seriously consider paramedics or forest rangers as potential dating material.
A still-dry cypress swamp in the Cypress Creek Natural Area
I recently hiked through one of my favorite habitats, a hardwood swamp. Various hardwood trees and a mixture of hardwoods and Cypress can be found here, including Water hickory, Holly, Maples, Oaks, Cabbage palms and Bay trees, accompanied by a dense understory of vines, ferns and herbaceous plants. Hardwood swamps occur on floodplains or upland areas that are lower than the surrounding area. And it’s home to so much life — the sounds coming from the trees were just lovely.
Looking up into the canopy of the hardwood swamp
Yet another breathtakingly beautiful Florida habitat to witness and love — and above all else, protect and preserve.
Often on hikes through the South Florida pine flatwoods, you’ll stumble across other ecosytems. The flatwood environment itself is layered, with high canopies of pines, a lower shrubby layer, and an herbaceous layer — but it’s dotted with cypress domes (a cypress swamp in the shape of a dome), prairies, marshes, and other habitats. Truly a fascinating ecosystem.
Unfortunately, developers continue to find flatwoods attractive for development: the vast expanses of flat land are too tempting, as is the ease in cutting and clearing its enormous swaths. But it’s critical to remember all the life this land supports — as well as the various other habitats that are intricately woven together here.
Pine flatwoods vista
Slash Pine: Ready for my close-up
Heading from the flatwoods into the swamp, along the Florida Trail
Ever-lovely cypress of the swamp
From flatwood, to prairie, to….
And an extra for Tree Tuesday — I can’t get enough of this cartoon….
Palm and coconut trees have surrounded me throughout my life — first in Florida, then overseas in the South Pacific, and then again in Florida. As children, my brother and I took hammers and screwdrivers to coconuts we’d salvage from the trees on the island, in a valiant effort to break them open. It’s a wonder that more serious injuries weren’t committed. My poor mother.
So in honor of the ever-flexible and almighty palm, bending amid hurricane-force winds and not just surviving, but thriving…. Here are a few retro images. I blew one up for my mother, another military (Navy) brat who spent time at Punahou School on Oahu as a child.
Retro Palm Tree, Florida
Retro Palm Tree, Florida
A snapshot of cypress trees lining a beautiful marsh along the Owahee Trail of Grassy Waters Preserve.
Now protected by various federal and state agencies, these amazing trees were completely logged out in the 1930s and ’40s in Florida — only a scant few original trees survived the logging operations of this time. Most seen today are 7th- or 8th-generation cypress. But if untouched, they could live to 500 years.
Walking the Malachite Trail in the SWA portion of the most wonderfully pristine Everglades watershed of the Grassy Waters Preserve, an old tree displayed new life with a whimsical fungi arrangement — a fairy staircase!