Pahaokee to panhandle – a study trip to Florida
By Loraine Perrins
In August 1989, I had the opportunity to visit Florida for three action-packed weeks. A student travel scholarship and a generous donation by the Kew Guild helped me considerably in financing this trip.
This study tour was a combination of two travel scholarships submitted. Mine was concerned with southern Florida, with special regard to the Everglades National Park. Peter Hollett, who accompanied me to Florida, was particularly keen to travel to northern Florida and the Panhandle – the native habitat of an array of carnivorous plants. The final result of the combined interests was a thoroughly fascinating trip and an insight into the scenery and flora that Florida has to offer.
The journey commenced in Miami, spending a few days working at the Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I must state at this point that the people at this garden are some of the friendliest and most welcoming I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and they certainly made our stay at Fairchild a memorable one.
Fairchild is world renowned for its Palm and Cycad collections. and it was interesting to note the growing conditions and requirements that is supplied for these particular groups of plants.
One of our days at Fairchild was spent with Miss Jane Lippincott who is the Plant Conservation and Reintroduction Officer for southern Florida. Jane has the difficult task of rescuing rare and endangered plants from areas which are to be developed. She collects plant material and seed from threatened plants to grow on at Fairchild’s nursery area, to later reintroduce into protected sites.
The day we joined her she was collecting from an area of pineland scrub, soon to be a housing estate. One plant of particular interest here was Euphorbia deltoidia ssp. deltoidia var. adherens which was known to be occurring naturally at only one other site.
Upon leaving Fairchild, we then spent a few days exploring the Everglades National Park of Pahaokee, to the native Indians, which means “River of Grass”.
This area has incredible diversity from tropical hardwood hammocks to pinelands to mangrove swamps, each with their own special uniqueness. One particular plant species which will always spring to mind when hearing the Everglades mentioned is Hymenocallis palmeri, the Alligator Lilly, with its brilliant white flowers proclaiming itself in the jagged limestone terrain. There was plenty of wildlife to see here too, from the native white-tailed deer, to the ever-present alligators. It is distressing to know that even the Everglades, which is recognised for its uniqueness by being designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, are still perilously close to destruction, as nearby Miami squanders every available water source from it, and in effect is drying out this delicately balanced environment.
Recent research on how critical the water levels are to the Glades is standing conservationists in good stead for the future battles.
From the Everglades we then travelled further south to the Florida Keys and the John Pennenkamp Coral Reef Reserve. Here we donned snorkels and fins to experience the most fantastic sights I have ever seen. Coral reefs are a wonderment to behold and I thoroughly recommend that everyone should take the opportunity to experience them.
It was along the quays on our homeward journey two weeks later that we collected specimens of marine algae as requested by Kew from the forthcoming marine display.
The remainder of the trip I will leave for my companion Peter Hollett to describe as it deals with our quest for the elusive carnivorous plant and our journey north.
Anyone considering a tour to Florida for whatever the reason I would thoroughly recommend it, and I would like to thank the Kew Guild for assisting me on my trip. However, I do have one word of warning and that is if you plan to visit any natural areas in the south be sure to take plenty of mosquito repellent with you!