April 14 – Myakka State Park – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

With scheduled activities winding down here at Sun N Fun, we are increasingly on our own for the balance of the month to do some things time has now permitted over the winter.

Earlier this past week, we revisited Myakka River State Park.

Prior to 1850, the Myakka River was the Asternal River on English maps. A Seminole Indian reportedly told a surveyor in the 1850s that the name of the river was "Myakka." The translation of the word Myakka is unknown.

Between the 1850s and the 1930s, cattle grazed on dry prairie: a vast land of grasses, forbs, palmetto, and other low shrubs with thousands of scattered wetlands. In 1910, Bertha Palmer, a progressive business woman from Chicago, came to Sarasota and bought a vast amount of land. A few years later, she purchased acreage farther inland than her initial real estate purchases and tried her hand at cattle and swine ranching. Meadow Sweet Pastures was located very near the Myakka River, where she introduced fencing and dip vats to Florida ranching. In 1918, Mrs. Palmer passed away.

Shortly after, the Great Depression struck America. President Roosevelt signed into law the New Deal, a government program intended to boost the economy and spirit of the American population during these dark years. One program funded was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Over 17,000 acres of the Palmer estate was purchased by the Florida government to develop Myakka River State Park. Myakka is one of 8 Florida state parks developed by the CCC during the 1930s.

The entrance road into the park winds its way through a tunnel of mostly live oak, many draped with Spanish Moss. 

Despite its name, Spanish moss is not a moss but a bromeliad—a perennial herb in the pineapple family.  Most bromeliads, including Spanish moss, are epiphytes. Epiphytes grow on other plants, but do not rely on them for nutrients. They take nutrients from the air and debris that collects on the plant. Spanish moss has permeable scales that “catch” moisture and nutrients.  Spanish moss was given its name by French explorers. Native Americans told them the plant was called Itla-okla, which meant “tree hair.” The French were reminded of the Spanish conquistadors' long beards, so they called it Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.”

We took a poontoon boat ride

out on the lake

but the sightings of alligators was minimal as it was extremely windy which kept the gators mostly hidden from view, with only occasional glimpses of their eyes and noses.

However, there were other sightings including hundreds of vultures,

Great  Blue Herons.

Egrets,

Killdeer,

and a Rosette Spoonbill.

The lake is also a playgournd for fishermen, both traditional

and net casters.

From the lake we could see stands of cabbage palms (note the dark lines at the base of the trees which represent how high the water gets during the summer rainy season.  The staining is caused by the heavy concentration of tannin in the water).

In the distance, we saw the smoke from the controlled buring which was taking place in the north end of the park.

We then took a "train" ride

through the uplands areas of the park.

Although much of the park's areas were once cattle pastures, only around 100 acres still reamin open.


Today, most of the park is covered with live oak and a variety of species of plams … there is only one small area where pines grow.

In some areas evidence for prior controlled buring was apparent..  It was interesting that many of the trees which show signs of buring at the base were very much alive above where the flames had apparently reached.

It was on this excursion that we got our first real look at an alligator

as well as many deer,

wild turkeys,

red shoulder hawks

and even wild pigs

which they try to trap our as they are an invasive animal which can do considerable damage to the forest floor.

 

This afternoon, we joined Debbie's brother Dick and wife Kate at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens where The Hydramatic,

a local band playing soul, funk and R&B with a unique style and arangements all their own was performing for several hundred in attendance..

We parked ourselves in a open gazebo about 100 yards away from the performers but close to beautiful views overlooking Sarasota Bay.

As during past visits to the gardens, we were able to enjoy the diversity of flowers, trees, cactus and other flora.

While a relatively tame location, we did spot some wildlife.

Anole

Tri-colored Heroon

Gulls soaring over the Bay

Black racer snake

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