Growing Mangroves

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Mangroves are an important part of our ecosystem here in South Florida.  They are trees that grow in brackish water along the intracoastal and serve as home to many living creatures, both in the water and on land.  Many of the iconic pictures you see of Florida- especially pictures you see of the keys- feature these beautiful trees coming out of the water.  The photo above is one that I took on a recent kayaking trip of some red mangroves and some beautiful ibises that were looking to snack on small fish and snails that were living beneath them.

Mangroves drop pencil-shaped floating pods into the water that serve as their seeds.- These are called propagules.  One end of the propagule is heavier so that they float vertically, allowing the bottom end to sprout roots while the top end stays above water as the leaves and stems begin to grow.  Propagules can float out to sea from Florida shores to different neighboring Caribbean countries.  Inversely, we often get a few wash up on our shores from other places as well.

They can be found washed up on our beaches all the time and floating all over our intracoastal water ways.   Turns out, they are easy to grown and actually make very pretty and easy to maintain house plants.  I decided to collect a few propagules over the weekend and give it a try.

Here is a really cool YouTube video I found with great info on growing them in either dirt or in fresh water.  They can also be grown in saltwater aquariums, but this would increase the amount of maintenance you would have to do on your tank.:

Finally, here are a few pics of my propagules by the windowsill.  I’ll be filling you in on their progress:

Do your part!

plastic bags and sea turtles

Yeah, I was lazy today… I skipped my run.  It was just too hot and my heart wasn’t in it.  My heart, however, is alway in for a walk on the beach.  Today was no exception and it made me feel slightly less guilty about not running.

As I walked towards the staircase down to the beach, I saw a dispenser for plastic grocery bags, intended to encourage people to fill these bags with their garbage while at the beach.  I took one on a whim and decided to fill it as I walked to the inlet and back- my go-to 2 mile walk.

What I found was really surprising and disappointing.  Empty chip bags, Starbucks cups, Styrofoam, soda cans and plastic bottles… What is wrong with people?

Did you know what most adult sea turtles have plastic in their GI system?  Did you also know that plastic in the GI system of any sea creature causes them to feel bloated and full, resulting in them starving to death because they don’t feel the need to eat?  These facts sadden me and make me feel concerned when I see people leave remnants of their picnics all over the beach with complete disregard for their environment.

Imagine how clean our beaches would be if we all committed to picking up our own garbage and making a commitment to filling one small bag with the garbage we find each time with visit?!  Fun thought and maybe something that we can encourage our younger generations to get into the habit of doing.

Besides beach-combing for trash, I found some treasures which redeemed the evening, most notably a shark’s tooth!

Sea Turtle Nesting Season

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Mama Loggerhead laying her eggs

Some girls want to go to fancy restaurants for their birthday.  Some want a party.  Some want to go out dancing or for a girls’ night out. This girl… wanted to go see sea turtles lay eggs!  (Yes, I acknowledge that I am strange.)

A few of my loving friends begrudgingly accommodated my request and others were genuinely intrigued themselves. Gumbo Limbo Environmental Center in Boca Raton, Fl. offers guided tours of the beach to see Loggerhead mamas lay their eggs, preceded by a very informative lecture of turtles and how to save these endangered animals.

Seeing a turtle lay eggs is never guaranteed because nature cannot be predicted.  To top it all off, only loggerheads can be observed in the act because they are the least endangered of the 3 species that lay their eggs on our beaches (the other two being Green Turtles and Leatherbacks.)  Turtle Specialists scout the beaches from 9pm to midnight in hopes of finding one for onlookers to watch.  By 11pm I was convinced that we were not going to get lucky that night… but FINALLY we were called via walkie talkie to start heading North on the beach we were at to see a loggerhead who was about to start laying eggs close by.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) a Green Turtle walked out of the ocean right in front of our group as we headed towards the loggerhead.  We were instructed to sit quietly on the sand until she had dug her hole and began laying eggs herself or else we could spook her off the beach!  What an exhilarating night!

Finally, we made it to the loggerhead just as she was finishing up and were able to observe her packing sand on her eggs, turn around and head towards the ocean.  It was an amazing experience.  Not a bad way to begin my 34th year on this planet!

Seining the Lagoon

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Red Mangroves

As a kid, who didn’t love a break from class to go on a fun field trip?  One of my most memorable was a trip to Gumbo Limbo Environmental Center in Boca Raton, Fl. during 7th grade.  We were given seine nets and taught to do the “sting-ray shuffle” in the shallow intracoastal waters so as not to get stung while walking and collecting fish, crabs, shrimp, jellyfish… you name it.

Everything we collected was placed in large buckets and, at the end, we were taught about all the different creatures we had found then released them back into the water.  It was a magical and interactive trip and I carry that memory vividly with me today.

I was researching things to entertain myself during the last few weeks of summer vacation a few days ago and… low and behold I found a link to Gumbo Limbo’s “Seinging the Lagoon” Program, but this time it was open to the public!  Of course, I registered and went.

The program was comprised of a very informative 30 min presentation about local mangroves and wildlife, followed by casting the seine in the intracoastal just as I remembered doing as a girl.  We caught a barracuda which was large enough to be deemed worthy of the nature center’s beautiful tank, a large blowfish, jelly fish, a pipefish (related to the seahorse), shrimp, various small fish and one lonely hermit crab.  As we found things and oogled at our buckets, the nature center’s volunteer exclaimed “its exhilarating isn’t it?!”  It WAS exhilarating to see so much life in such a small, shallow area… even for someone who has probably assisted with hundreds of these classes. Imagine what exists in the depths of the sea!  Conservation is so imperative as is educating our youth about the importance of appreciating seeing the beauty of their local environment so that they appreciate and care for it as adults.

Here are some pics of my fun little adventure:

Starting Seeds

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One of the few benefits of bearing this oppressive Florida heat during the summer months is the tropical fruit that it brings.  Of the papaya, avocado, mamey and nispero (or sapote as some cultures call it) I love, love, love…. MANGO!

As I’ve said before, my neighbor has a huge tree that gives an absurd amount of fruit and I’ve been reaping the benefits of this since earlier this month. While I’ve been baking away, my mom has been YouTube-ing how to start the seeds so that we can eventually have our own tree. 

Isn’t this gorgeous!