Saturday, April 18, 2015

POTM...*: From Epiphytes to Chelonioidytes

(*Photo[s] of the Month)

OK, what do epiphytes and chelonioidytes have in common? Actually, not much, except that I encountered them both during some recent hiking in Florida!

Epiphytes are also known as ‘air plants,’ plants that can attach themselves to just about anything, from tree bark to power lines, and receive all the moisture and nutrients they need from the air, sun and rain. Obviously, they tend to be more prolific in warmer and more humid environments. Chelonioidytes are a family of sea turtles, and though I didn’t actually see the creatures themselves, I was out at sunrise and was the first to see their tracks on the beach, fresh from the lady having laid a clutch of eggs the night before.

Florida is covered with epiphytes, from bromeliads (that can also be seen as houseplants or planted in landscaping) to orchids to ferns to the ubiquitous Spanish Moss hanging from pine and oak. My favorite is the Cardinal Wild Pine, pictured here twice, a strangely-named bromeliad with a spiky red flower. They were prolific in a bald cypress swamp, the boardwalk of which was part of a hike I made in the DuPuis Natural Management Area in western Martin County. The plant can be two feet broad and the flower two feet tall and more.

Over on the coast, I went nearly every morning to my favorite place in the area, Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge on the northern half of Jupiter Island. March and April is nesting time for Florida’s three kinds of sea turtles – loggerheads, greens and leatherbacks. I would typically say that these two separate sets of new tracks were made by loggerheads, by far the most abounding genus of the three to hit the beaches there. The only odd thing was that the particular mama in the first photo was enormous, much larger than the average loggerhead: the track of the carapace alone being dragged across the sand looked to be about three feet wide, with the flipper tracks extending to nearly six feet. This made me wonder if it was a leatherback, the largest sea turtle, but far more rare and endangered. The turtles come in the night, lay hundreds of eggs, and are gone before the first hint of dawn. Several weeks later, if the nest survives predation, the little hatchlings will look for the light of the moon over the ocean to guide them toward their watery abode. I remember snorkeling in the Pacific one time and seeing a sea turtle ‘in flight.’ What a beautiful sight.

To say the least, natural beauty captures me, and I imagine if you are a regular reader of this blog, the same is true for you. One of my favorite authors is Henri Nouwen, who said in his book Creative Ministry that we must be careful we are not
like the busy man who walks up to a precious flower and says, “What for God’s sake are you doing here? Can’t you get busy someway?” and then finds himself unable to understand the flower’s response: “I am sorry, sir, but I am just here to be beautiful.”

~~RGM, April 17, 2015

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