Sunday, July 11, 2010

Old Miami

This is what much of South Florida, east of the Everglades, looked like until the post WWII building boom began the destruction. The "pine rocklands"
are unique to Miami-Dade County, parts of the Keys and a few Bahamian islands. Of the 225 species of native plants that grow on them in Dade, 20 percent can be found nowhere else, and their survival is far from guaranteed.

The understory palm, growing beneath the pines, is the low growing saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), used in several natural remedies, especially for prostate health.  It has nasty little spines along the petiole, hence the "saw" in the common name.


I bicycled over to this area with Sparky recently, but it's fenced off, which, while keeping people (and dogs) out, doesn't prevent invasive, non-native plants from taking root. Still, it didn't look too bad, so I guess the county is taking care of it. This particular site is only a few acres and, you guessed it, a new development is going up next door, although it seems to be stalled for the moment. (One of the few benefits of the recession?)



Many years ago, I was listening to Car Talk on National Public Radio, and someone from Pembroke Pines, a municipality in Broward County, just north of Miami-Dade, called in with a question. The Car Guys decided that pine trees couldn't possibly grow in a climate like this. Ha! Actually, these are a subspecies of  the southern slash pine, generally known as Dade County pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa).

They are very slow growing, which results in a dense, resin-filled wood that's resistant to termites. No wonder so much was cut down; every house built through the 50s had floors made of it. Fortunately, when old houses are being torn down, much of that precious wood is now being recycled.

The last photo is of a similar habitat, but this was taken in the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. It gives the impression of being hot and dry, but this was a September afternoon, and it was hot and humid and the skeeters were out in full force.

13 comments:

Floridagirl said...

Those scenes of slash pine canopy with palmetto understory are quite familiar to me. Here in rural CF, sandy pine scrub is one of our common habitats, complete with oodles of rattlesnakes. Cypress swamp and oak woods are also common here. Your pictures do depict a pretty pristine environment. Hopefully, it will remain that way. We have a lot of barely-begun developments up here as well, and nature is quickly reclaiming them.

Penny McCrea said...

Hey, FG. I forgot to say that the rocklands are limestone, and lie a couple of inches (if you're lucky!) below the topsoil. Pickaxes required for gardening! Not sure if there are any rattlesnakes left around here; at least, I've never seen one. Cypress is found west of the "ridge," in the Everglades, mostly in Big Cypress.

Susan said...

Glad to hear that some housing developments are being reclaimed by nature. That is probably one of the most positive things that came out of this recession. We have the same situation here in my area. Very nice photos!

Penny McCrea said...

Thanks, Susan. Developers keep wanting to develop to the edge of the Everglades, but there's actually plenty of room within Dade's Urban Development Boundary. This native habitat, and the delayed development, is less than a mile from Dadeland, supposedly the most successful mall in the US!

The last photo (Big Pine Key) gets rotated as the computer wallpaper. :)

Rainforest Gardener said...

Ha! Those car guys can be idiots when it doesn't involve cars.
Pine rockland is one of the most special habitats in Florida, and I'm glad that someone down there appreciates it. Its really cool because from a distance it looks like the woods in North Florida, but up close the understory, shrub layer and epiphytes give away the climate. Lots of endemic species there.

Penny McCrea said...

Hey, Steve. Someone else likes Car Talk, then! I believe saw palmetto grows everywhere in Florida, so my pix would seem very familiar to you. It's such an adaptable palm.

TOG said...

There is a bit of land that looks just like that across the street from our house.
I can give you one of the plants that you want, but first I have to talk to you. In this open comment I will not give everyone my phone number. You can go to my togofcoralgables site and give my your phone number and I will be the only to see it.
Go to:
http://togofcoralgables.com/contactus.aspx

James Missier said...

Good thing that they thought of recycling the wood material. If not, then all is at loss.
At least, there is still hope that some of these parts of forest are still in presevation.

Penny McCrea said...

@James: Fortunately, recycling old wood has become the fashionable thing to do.

David said...

Hi Penny,
You have a terrific garden blog. I'm just starting out, but yours is already on my blog's favorites list. I love the butterfly pictures and flowering trees! We had relatives in Miami and I always felt I was entering a different world when we visited. I'm learning a lot of the details about plants & animals of South Florida from your garden blog. The Royal Poincianas pictures still bring back a severe case of zone envy. I wish we could grow them in zone 9B, but I've never seen one growing in Houston. Thanks for the cool pictures.
David (Tropical Texana...Houston TX)

Penny McCrea said...

@David: Wow! Thanks! But isn't it fun writing about what we love? I very much like your blog, too, so I'll be following from now on. You'll find plenty of like minded bloggers out there who will be happy to follow and comment. Keep up the good work!

NanaK said...

Penny - Those are lovely pictures of natural Florida habitat. The one of Big Pine Key really draws the viewer into the scene. I have saw palmetto growing under some of my oaks. It was growing naturally and I have just planted around it. I have learned to love the look of the fan shaped leaves.

Penny McCrea said...

Thanks, Nana. It's not just the fan shape, it's that wonderful silvery color that I love so much. I don't have any saw palmettos, but I recently planted a native silver palm, Cocothrinax argentata, but it's tiny and I'll be more than 100 by the time it gets to significant size!