Sunday, January 24, 2016

Soldier Orchid: diminutive gem

 At less than 6 inches tall, the Soldier Orchid (Zeuxine strateumatica) often goes unnoticed.

RankScientific Name and Common Name
KingdomPlantae – Plants
SubkingdomTracheobionta – Vascular plants
SuperdivisionSpermatophyta – Seed plants
DivisionMagnoliophyta – Flowering plants
ClassLiliopsida – Monocotyledons
FamilyOrchidaceae – Orchid family
GenusZeuxine Lindl. – zeuxine
SpeciesZeuxine strateumatica (L.) Schltr. – soldier's orchid

In India and Pakistan it is used as a salep, which is a flour made from the tubers!  They, along with the ancients in Rome, considered a drink made with the salep to be a powerful aphrodisiac!  Our native Seminoles (the tribe, not the college football team) agreed.

Zeuxine strateumatica (L.) Schlechter Soldier's Orchid; Orchidaceae
Seminole Drug (Gynecological Aid)
Decoction of whole plant taken and used as a wash for barrenness.
Sturtevant, William 1954 The Mikasuki Seminole: Medical Beliefs and Practices. Yale University, PhD Thesis (p. 318)

Zeuxine strateumatica (L.) Schlechter Soldier's Orchid; Orchidaceae
Seminole Drug (Reproductive Aid)
Decoction of whole plant used as a wash for impotency.
Sturtevant, William 1954 The Mikasuki Seminole: Medical Beliefs and Practices. Yale University, PhD Thesis (

Hardly noticed on a lawn, this hardy terrestrial beauty is found in full sun, partial and full shade.  Be sure to check your lawn, garden and local roadsides!

These photos were taken with a recently acquired Vivitar Wide Angle/Macro converter.   Works great and under $15!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Florida Bobcat: Lynx rufus

 I did a post of Florida's Bobcats (Lynx rufus) some time back, but it just disappeared from the blog.  I am reposting these photos as I love watching these cats.  We live in a large subdivision bordered by an even larger preserve, so these bobcats thrive.....on rabbits, squirrels, and, I suppose the occasional loose poodle or housecat.


 They are crepuscular (more active around dawn and dusk), so hard to get good photos. 

 But, having no enemies other than cars and the very rare male panther passing through the preserve....they often ignore humans.

 Graceful and innocent looking....they can put on an amazing burst of speed when hunting.

Easy to see out in the open....they become almost invisible in the tall grass.
Just part of our wonderful wild side of SW Florida.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Swampscaping at Six Mile Slough

 Swampscaping at Six Mile Slough Cypress Preserve on a winter afternoon. 

 So very many Skipper look-alikes.  I think this one is a
Sachem Skipper (Atalopedes campestris).

 White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), known locally as a Chokoloskee Chicken!


 Bald Cypress Trees (Taxodium distichum)

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).

What a great way to spend a winter afternoon!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Heniptera attack!

The Cotton Stainer (Dysdercus suturellus) is an attractive looking "true bug," but not on my hibiscus! 
A major pest to cotton production in Florida during the 20th century, it is now considered a "minor" pest to malvaceous plants (mallow family).
Once infamous here in SW even has a small preserve named after it in Sarasota!
Red Bug Slough

Monday, December 7, 2015

Barrier Island Walkabout with Lemon Bay Conservancy

The Lemon Bay Conservancy's Dr Bill Dunson recently hosted a naturalist walk on Manasota Key's Blind Pass Beach.  The cool, cloudy morning was perfect for some botany, ecology, geology, oceanography, ornithology, entomology...and interesting anecdotes.

wiki photo

Manasota Key is a barrier island on the SW coast of Florida.  Mostly developed, but with two very nice preserves....Stump Pass Beach State Park on the south end, and Blind Pass Beach Preserve in the center.

The first thing the group saw was a patch of Mother In Law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata).   Invasive in the wild, this popular garden and houseplant has some interesting features:  selected by NASA to purify the air in future space stations, it is also good in homes as it absorbs nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde.  The flower which Dr Bill holds below has very long petals (corolla tube)  .....allowing only Sphynx moths to use their long probscises to reach the nectar and pollinate the plant.

If the are no Sphynx moths about, then this hardy plant is a rhizome and will propagate underground.'s also a favorite for Feng Shui, as the leaves grow upward!  Brings good luck, money and clean air.

Bring some vibrant Qi into your home!

Off into the mangroves on the lee side of the island. 

Some White Mangrove trees (Avecennia germinans) which  are fast growing and the first to return to a disturbed area.

An unusual find!  Two Mangrove Salt Marsh Snakes (Nerodia clarkia compressicauda)  warming up in the sun.  Non-venomous and semi-aquatic.



The prettiest plant we saw, in my humble opinion, is the now out of favor, exotic, invasive.....but once popular as a ground cover..... Yellow Creeping Oxeye Daisy
 (Wedelia trilobata, Sphagneticola trilobata)
Now considered a Class 2 invasive, but I think they are beautiful and they are a good butterfly plant.

With even a small increase in elevation above sea level, we entered a hardwood hammock.  Dr Bill points out some features under the Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) canopy.

Back over to the Gulf of Mexico side of the key.  Dr Bill discussed the natural Gulf currents, shifting of sand, and constant changes of the shoreline.

Loop current in the Gulf of Mexico

wiki photo

 Longshore drift current

wiki photo

A bit of shell identification  Here, just a piece of a Lightning Whelk (Sinistrofulgur perversum).  What a great name!  Any Latin scholars out there?  I make it "A left sided bolt of lightning, in an unusual manner!"  What do you think?  It's been a long time since I studied Latin, and all I remember is...."Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres..."

Some talk on bird migration and a few cooperative species on the beach.  A Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).

Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator)

Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis).

No....not the catch of the day....but some evidence of a recent Ride Tide fish kill.
 The dinoflagellate (Karenia brevis) which causes red tide.
wiki photo

 Most exciting find for me, a new species.....a flight of
White-tipped Black Moths (Melanchroia cephise)

These moths are the "parents" of the Snowbush caterpillar...considered enemy #1 of the imported Snowbush
(Breynia disticha) ornamental.

wiki photo

So....if you have a resident insect which attacks an imported you kill the insect?   That's what the UF/Entomology Dept recommends.   And with Sevin yet!!!
Sevin is a broad spectrum insecticide which is banned in many countries as a carcinogen and associated with birth defects!!!!


What a great much to see in varied environments and ecosystems....all in one barrier island.
Want to know more about Florida's natural beaches...

And be sure to check The Lemon Bay Conservancy's website for future outings.