Park substitutes

Broward County parks are closed on Tuesdays, so Fern Forest is off limits. On my intermittent searches for a substitute park, I’ve run across some pretty nice places. Windmill Park, on Lyons Road just north of Atlantic (less than a mile from Fern Forest, actually), is OK. Today, though, I went back to the first park I visited when I started working at the soon-to-be-vacated office location: Hampton Pines Park, in North Lauderdale. It’s just a few miles west on McNab Road.

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Fall foliage. In Florida?

Sure! Everyone who’s ever spent time in subtropical Florida has heard the popular wisdom that there are only two seasons: wet and dry. But after you’ve been here for a while, it’s possible to make out some subtle reminders of the pattern in temperate latitudes. They’re just not as noticeable, and they usually come a little bit later.

For example, the leaves do change color. Here’s a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) with the leaflets starting to turn rusty:

In a month or two, when the cypress trees leaf out again, the leaflets look like this:

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Making the rounds…

…at Fern Forest. I’ve been frantically trying to wrap up the loose ends here, because it looks like my office will be moving downtown, “with the neon lights so pretty,” but where nature will also be a lot more scarce than it is here way out west. So, before the move (if and when it occurs), I’m doing everything I can to soak up everything I can about my favorite spot.

As loyal readers will recall, I didn’t find any armadillos yesterday, but today I found three of them; the one below allowed me to get up nice and close:

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Odds and ends

Some days you see a lot; others you don’t. Yesterday at Fern Forest I couldn’t go 100 yards without coming across another armadillo. Today, I didn’t see a one. But what I did see was a bit of a puzzle. Anyone out there have any idea what this might be? I found it at the beginning of the Maple Walk in a tangle of dead Brazilian Pepper trees:

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The Land That Time Forgot

Some places just feel old. Grab some tall trees, some worn stones, sprinkle in a few ferns, and add some creatures that look like dinosaurs, and you’ve got yourself a genuine lost world. And when it’s one of the most densely developed counties in Florida, well, that’s a real paradox. But that’s Fern Forest. Today really drove home how wild a place can be even when it’s smack in the heart of the city…

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Ferns, part two

Last week I started taking the name of my lunchtime site more seriously, and started looking more closely at the various ferns of Fern Forest. My homework has revealed more and more parallels between birds and ferns, by the way. Did you know that there is an ancestral plant species with fern-like leaves called Archaeopteris? And of course THE ancestral bird species is Archaeopteryx. Coincidence? … I think…so, actually. (For more on the ancestral bird species, see Gary Kaiser, The Inner Bird.)

Seriously though, and as promised, I’m here to report on the results of my investigations at Fern Forest. [...]

More on ferns…later

I went back to Fern Forest yesterday, and very nearly enjoyed my stroll through the Maple Walk. I say very nearly, because the ladies of Fern Forest were out in force yesterday, and their constant attention, while flattering, made the walk much less comfortable than it would normally have been. And to top it all off, assimilating all this information about pteridophytes is a real challenge. As soon as I’ve got everything squared away, I’ll update you all.

Fern homework

Today was such a beautiful day that I just knew, even before I went in to work, that I would be going to the park for lunch. Fern Forest is my absolute favorite spot in Broward County to take lunch, because it has so many different trails, and each one has limitless opportunities for a curious naturalist around every corner.

Today, though, didn’t turn out as planned, because I decided to do some homework. Since fall migration is pretty much over in Florida, and I no longer need to stalk every tree and bush with binoculars, lately I’ve been thinking [...]

The great outdoors – in my backyard!

Most of the people who know me would agree that I’m pretty much a homebody. Sure, from time to time you’ll catch me on a nature walk at Yamato Scrub, or leading a field trip for the local Audubon Society. And as a birder, I’m not immune to the temptation to drive all over creation chasing a rarity. And I’m even occasionally to be found in India. But for various reasons (new paternal duties, the price of gas, the desire to avoid damaging the environment, even just plain old personality), I prefer to stay at home and try to bring [...]

Ferns and fungi

As I wander through Fern Forest at lunchtime, I see loads of interesting things. After a rain, mushrooms appear as if by magic:

Later, those same exuberant growths lose somewhat of their vitality:

As many Floridians know, there’s an epiphytic fern that goes through this same wet/dry cycle many times throughout the year: Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides var. michauxiana), which is fresh and leafy after a rain:

After a period of dry weather, though, the plant looks more like this:

Funny thing, though. Despite the fact that today is Hallowe’en, and despite [...]