Thursday, November 10, 2005

Endangered Florida Fern Sighting

My job took me walking through a complex of old pastures and woodlands yesterday, in search of a couple of sinkholes (someone has to walk in the woods and natural areas for a living, and fortunately, I’m one of them).

One sinkhole was expansive, and lined with massive old red bay trees and a broken ring of vertical limestone cliffs that reminded me of medieval battlements.

The stone walls were covered with liverworts and individuals of 4 fern species. One fern,
Thelypteris reptans, was represented by just 10 individuals on the east-facing walls only. The fern is an endangered species known in Alachua County from only a handful of locations at most. It was most satisfying to see this rare denizen of the sinkhole region of west-central Florida.

A lone red buckeye was growing on a dry slope a few meters down from the upper perimeter of the large depression. I collected one of the buckeyes as a memento. I’ll start my own tree for the yard at home as a remembrance of the walk and the rare fern discovery.

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