Sunday, March 8, 2009

Among the Tall Cypress - Attack of the Invaders

Tall Cypress Natural Area
Coral Springs, Florida
March 3 -5

Tucked away, amidst shopping centers and housing developments, with names like Turtle Run, there is a beautiful little forest called Tall Cypress.

It is a place that stands for determination. The land was once deemed to be either a shopping center or housing environmental group at a local high school deemed otherwise. They campaigned to protect the forest and won - proving that working together, at any age, will likely prove successful.

Then, a few years back Hurricane Wilma came ripping through the area - making a mess all over South Florida, including Tall Cypress Natural Area. Our native trees are built to withstand such powers, but still may be damaged and stressed. The Tall Cypress forest is showing it's stress.

Invasive exotics have come in full force and are "invading" the ecosystem. There are bushes and vines everywhere - not only invasive, even the Wild Muscadine Grape is going grapey and covering over the forest floor. When the tall trees fall, or lean, the forest floor receives more sun, the small bushy plants of the understory take over and attempt to over-power the forest. The system teeters off balance for a while. Eventually, the tall trees will once again dominate... unless there is such an intense force (wind, fire, bulldozers) that they are wiped out and can't recuperate.

I don't think this is the case at Tall Cypress. The trees are holding strong and hopefully will send the invasive species away or discipline them enough that they aren't a problem and allow the forest to achieve balance once again.

Invasive exotics are plants or animals that are introduced by people. They grow very comfortable and begin to reproduce and grow quickly and fiercely. Melaleuca Trees are an example, we deposited their seeds by plane so that they would grow and drink up all of the water in the wetlands, and now we can't get rid of them. The list is long. It is so important to plant natives adapted to where we live, so that when the wind catches their seed, they won't grow somewhere they aren't supposed to be.

Regardless of invasive exotics and loud pressure cleaners (the wonderful workers of Broward County were cleaning the boardwalk on Thursday), Tall Cypress is a gorgeous little gem and we loved the experience.

We were able to see the first beautiful emerald green leaves of the cypress tree sprouting forth among the branches. Now that spring is on its way, the deciduous cypress will be green once again. The rains will come and the canopy will close in to shade over the wily growth beneath - on the path to balance once again.

The air was cool and the smell of the forest was dry and pleasant. It was so dry and cool on Tuesday that the kids had a very SHOCKING walk (static electricity that is).

South Florida is sooooo dry right now, my bones are aching for the rain...the thunder, the lightning, the dark clouds, the heat...well, not so much.

As we walked, a pair of Red-bellied woodpeckers played hide and seek through the canopy, stopping here and there to listen and peck. We heard many song birds along our way, but failed to see them in the overgrowth.

We learned about leaves - comparing broad-leaved trees to needle-leafed trees. Cypress and pine are needle-leafed trees and luckily enough this place has both. We collected leaves and later turned them into works of art - rubbing their outlines onto paper with crayon. The kids made beautiful creations.

The boardwalk goes through two different ecosystems - the Cypress Hydric Swamp and the Pine Flatlands. The area where the cypress trees grow will become wet once again when the rains return. The land is lower in elevation, maybe only in inches, but enough to fill with water. As the land rises, the Slash Pine and Cabbage Palm take over.

We observed the differences and the similarities of the trees; cypress lose their leaves, pines don't; yet, they are both conifers (bearing cones).

We walked in silence, we walked blind-folded, we searched for colors, we even laid on the ground to see the trees in a different way. We gained perspective.

Perspective is so important - to see things from another angle. In our every day lives we need to see things differently and "do" differently. Despite our past mistakes of demolishing old growth forests across the land, we are still cutting down our trees. Cypress trees throughout the south - Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, are being cut down to make MULCH! Forests and habitats are being destroyed so people can have mulch on their lawns. It is up to us, as adults, as gardeners, home-owners, consumers, children - to stop the trend and save our beautiful forests. Go to: for more information and ways you can make a difference, and gain perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to tell me what you think of the blog, I'd love to hear from you! Christy