Study Tour report of Florida
By Peter Hollett
The study tour to Florida took place in July 1989 and resulted in the combination of two scholarships, my own to northern Florida and the Panhandle and that of Lorraine Perrins to the Everglades National Park and Fairchild Tropical Gardens. The earlier stage of the trip is covered by Lorraine dealing with the Everglades and Fairchild.
Leaving the Everglades behind we undertook the drive north. Any visit to Florida would not be complete without a visit to Disney World and Epcot Centre. It was interesting to note the carpet bedding displays, planting schemes, hard landscape features and topiary of the Disney characters. Also at Epcot they have many projects in operation with regard to plant growth in various media, nutrient balances and conditions that would be experienced in space.
From Orlando we headed further north to the Panhandle but with a stop midway at Manatee Springs. Here it was interesting to see the natural stands of the Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and the associated flora. It was very exciting to see the pneumatophores or ‘knees’ they produce to survive these conditions. Other plants of interest were the Manatee grass (Thalassia sp.) and the water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes).
Heading further north-west we came to a site named Blackwater Springs which had been recommended to us as a possible site to observe carnivorous plants. Camping in the State Park here we were able to question the wardens as to locations for the plants. The wardens of the park were very helpful in identifying sites even though these plants are becoming increasingly rare due to drainage of the habitat, development and over collection.
One carnivorous plant which was reasonably common along the road verges was Drosera capillaris. This grew in the areas which are burnt off each year to reduce the height of vegetation so wildlife can be seen by motorists, and so there is little competition from grasses and other flora. Other plants in this area were species of Pinguicula and relatively poor specimens of Sarracenia leucophylla and Sarracenia purpurea growing next to a shaded stream. Further up the road was the most exciting site of the trip for me! We came across a wet, sandy field which at first looked full of white flower, but under closer inspection turned out to be a field full of the white pitchers of Sarracenia leucophylla. These pitchers were beautifully coloured due to their sunny position, brilliant white with bright red veining. Many of the pitcher plants were also in flower. As well as Sarracenias in this area there were vast amounts of Drosera filiformis and Utricularia cordata.
From the Panhandle the drive south was then undertaken passing through Manatee Springs once more and heading down the west side of the Florida Peninsula. The journey was broken by a visit to the Marie Selby Botanic Garden where a former employee of Kew was working and kindly showed us the garden and behind the scenes.
The allotted time in Florida was then running out, with only enough time to collect Marine Algaes for the new display in the Palm House at Kew in Biscayne Bay area before boarding the plane to return to the U.K.