May’s Focus is on Wetlands and Wildflowers at the Wildlife Park

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be highlighting Wetlands and Wildflowers during the month of May when wildflowers are springing up all along our roadsides and in our fields. Exhibits will be on display in the Park’s Visitor Center and in the Discovery Center on this theme.

You may ask yourself “What is a wildflower?” The Florida Wildflower Foundation defines “a Florida native wildflower as any flowering herbaceous species that grew wild within the state’s natural ecosystems in the 1560s when Florida’s first botanical records were created.” The Foundation is also an advocate for flowering native shrubs, vines, trees, grasses and grass-like plants.”

Bluestem Prickly Poppy image by Ralph Bischoff.

A display of a variety of Florida’s wildflowers photographed by Park volunteer, Ralph Bischoff, will also be featured in the Visitor Center. More of his photography of wildflowers will be on exhibit in the Discovery Center.

The Homosassa River Garden Club will have a month-long Wetlands display in the Visitor Center. Club member, Athena Phillips, says, “Be sure to visit the Wetlands display in the main lobby. Explore what makes wetlands unique and what we can do to help ourselves by helping protect these special places. Take a peek at the demonstration wetlands terrarium created by Homosassa River Garden Club. Free handouts will be available for the kids and adults to take home.”

 Wildflowers and Wetlands Presentation

Jodi Lanier will be doing a wildflower and wetlands presentation. Image by Susan Strawbride.

On Friday, May 19, 2017, Park volunteer Jodi Lanier, also a member of the Citrus County Native Plant Society, will present a program on the Native wildflowers of Florida. The program will start at 1:00 pm in the Florida Room of the Visitor Center located on US 19. She will introduce you to one of our earliest conservationists, William Bartram, 1739 – 1823. Bartram was a naturalist/explorer of the American Southeast in the late 18th Century and was known for his illustrations of birds, plants and Native American culture. Bartram also collected plant specimens for his father’s botanical garden in Philadelphia. A record of his explorations is contained in “Bartram’s Travels” published in 1791. This book has become a classic in American nature writing.

Lizard’s Tail image by Ralph Bischoff.

Lanier will introduce you to the many varieties of wildflowers throughout the state. She will advise you as to which of these plants can be successfully incorporated into your landscaping, and which can only survive in a specialized habitat. There is no charge to attend this wildflower program.

She is currently the leader of the Homosassa 4H Club with a focus on environmental science and loves teaching children and adults how to kayak and be active outdoors.

Lindenleaf Rosemallow image by Ralph Bischoff.

As a volunteer for Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, she drives the park’s pontoon boats and gives a narrated tour of Pepper Creek. Jodi Lanier is also a member of the Citrus Chapter of Florida Native Plant Society and describes herself as an environmentalist. Her favorite subject is ecology and she is working toward becoming a Florida Master Naturalist so she can utilize her knowledge through nature interpretation and teach people the importance of conservation.

Walking Alligator photo by Joe Dube

Did you know that alligators, insects, cypress trees, little blue herons, muddy soil and pickerelweed are just a few examples of the diverse parade of wildlife existing in Florida’s wetlands.

Wetlands are found throughout Florida according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The plants and animals that live in these special places make up an elaborate, yet fragile, ecosystem in which things depend on one another for survival.

Many birds, fish, mammals and reptiles use wetlands as breeding and nursery areas for their young. Wetlands also act as powerful sponges that can soak up huge amounts of excess water from rainfalls.

What you can do to protect our Wetlands

Florida wetlands image by Susan Strawbridge.

 The following are some of the recommendations of things you can do to protect our coastal wetlands from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The complete list can be seen at their website:  www.habitat.noaa.gov/protection/wetlands/whatyoucando.html

  • Pick up all litter and dispose in appropriate trash containers. Keep surface areas that wash into storm drains clean of pet feces, toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and motor oil, which eventually reach and impair our wetlands.
  • Plant only native species of trees, shrubs, and flowers to preserve the ecological balance of local wetlands.
  • Use phosphate-free laundry and dishwasher detergents. Phosphates encourage algae growth, which can suffocate aquatic life.
  • Use paper and recycled products made from unbleached paper. Bleached paper contains toxic chemicals that can contaminate water.
  • Use non-toxic products for household cleaning, lawn and garden care. Never spray lawn or garden chemicals on a windy or rainy day, as they will wash into the waterways.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle household items and waste.
Dotted Horsemint by Ralph Bischoff.

We encourage you to visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn about the importance of Florida’s Wetlands and Wildflowers. For more information on our events, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.