February 24, 2015

A Tropical Winter Walk-Off

spanish moss 4

When Les at A Tidewater Gardener announced he was hosting the Winter Walk-Off meme again, I paused a bit. Instead of walking, I'd decided to "fly off" this year--spending the end of winter along the Gulf Coast of Florida. But Les said it was OK to participate, even though I'm posting far from home.

path 1

So, the other day as I walked to church, I snapped some photos along the way. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with temperatures in the mid-70s (24C). The path I walked was paved most of the way--along a residential street, interspersed with some "wilder" areas.

mixed media

One of the first displays I noticed was a tree trunk, with climbing cactuses and Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) growing up the side. I don't know if this was intentional, but the "mixed media" of the pine cones and needles at the bottom--combined with the moss, the cactuses, and the interesting bark--created a pleasant effect. I believe the cactus is some species of Selenicereus.

ragweed

Most of the plants along the route were tropical--unsuited or uncommon outdoor plants in my part of the country. But I did notice Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), which also blankets the Midwest during the growing season. Seems it will grow anywhere.

cactus

I was surprised to see this small cactus (some species of Opuntia?), growing in the middle of someone's lawn. I would think this would make lawn-mowing a bit challenging.

agave and cereus cactus

This agave and cactus combination was dramatic. I've included the surrounding large trees to show the scale. I'd estimate the agave was about six to seven feet tall, with the cactus nearly double its height at the top.

fan palm

Fan Palms (Sabal minor?) were everywhere. This small grouping was attractive--I imagined it growing in a pot on a patio somewhere. The light here makes it look brighter than it really was.

spanish moss 1

Even more prevalent was the Spanish Moss, hanging from huge trees,

spanish moss 3

Along the path,

spanish moss 2

Coexisting with epiphytes,

spanish moss 5

And, actually, draping just about everywhere. For those who see Spanish Moss all the time, you're probably chuckling at my fascination. I can't help it--I find it incredibly beautiful.

spanish moss 6

From a distance, as well as close-up.

jungle clearing

At several points along the mile-long path, there were large swatches of preserve or private property. I kept noticing the beautiful clearings and meadows, surrounded by tropical plants.

climber

I thought this grouping of epiphytes, ferns, trees, and mosses was enchanting.

private

Another view of the private "wild" property on one side of the route.

path 2

As I drew closer to my destination, the path wound through a beautiful forest clearing.

bench

A bench, framed by Bougainvillea (B. glabra) outside an artist's studio welcomed travelers to sit and rest a spell.

egret 1

Also welcoming was this very tame egret. He was hanging around the church grounds, and paused long enough for me to capture a few mugs.

egret 2

egret 3

I snapped many more individual plant photos, which I plan to share in a future post. This was an unusual winter walk-off for me. I'm starting to feel a little guilty for spending the end of winter in such a pleasant place.

Visit Les's A Tidewater Gardener blog for more Winter Walk-Off posts from interesting locations.

52 comments:

  1. How very interesting. That egret seems to be posing for photographers! I found the climbing cactus, very strange - you could think they are large caterpillars!
    Do enjoy the warmth as it is pretty bad under our latitude!

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    1. The egret was very tame. Actually, he seemed to be checking out the front of the church after the people left. Must be a regular. ;-) The climbing cactus surprised me, too. I wonder if it was planted there intentionally or if it started with a volunteer. Regarding the weather, I wish everyone could be in a pleasant place in February. It has been so cold and snowy in the north again this year--especially in the northeast.

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  2. Interesting combinations of landscape plants and that gorgeous egret is so amazing to pose for you. I especially enjoyed the glimpse into the original Florida native areas.

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    1. Yes, some of the residential areas were obviously neatly planned, while others seemed to be naturalistic. I'm not sure about that cactus in the middle of the lawn! The private property with meadows surrounded by tall trees was fascinating.

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  3. That was, I have to say, a most enjoyable walk.
    Some very fetching plants. I think I'd find the Spanish Moss just as fascinating as you do Beth. How very kind of Mr Egret to pose for you.

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    1. Hi Angie: I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know I did! There were many more plants, and quite a few were blooming. But I'll have to include them in a future post. Love Spanish Moss! The egret was fun. :)

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  4. Looking at the shown, interesting plants once I got nicer to her, because I know that is where it is always warm. Zamieniłaś his winter in a warm place and rightly so, if you had the opportunity. Regards.

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    1. Yes, I wish everyone could be in a warm place--if they want to be. Some people prefer the cold winter, I guess. I actually enjoy a little winter, but I've had enough by the time February rolls around.

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  5. Everything is bigger down there. The egret is huge. Plants grow to enormous size. I hope you are having a fun time, the weather has to be a big change. Nice photos of your walk. I think that is the best part of walks, seeing and photographing things we rarely see.

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    1. Yes, that's so true about the size of growing things down here, Donna. The egret didn't seem that big--tall but not huge; actually, quite graceful. Apparently, they're common down here. The plants, though, are huge! And they grow so fast. I agree--a walk in an unfamiliar place is a wonderful learning experience!

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  6. That second photo looks like snakes are climbing the tree. I am so glad you posted from Florida, I am sick and tired of winter scenes, and in fact, it started snowing again today, and tomorrow night is supposed to be the biggest snow we have had yet. I need Florida, we all need Florida.

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    1. I know--weird cactuses growing up the tree. I had to do a little research to try to figure out what they were. I know how it goes--most years, I'm stuck in the frozen tundra until March. Sounds like the southeast has had an unusually difficult winter this year. Even Florida was a bit cool last week. It's very pleasant this week, though. I'm enjoying being a partial snowbird this winter.

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  7. Living in the country the idea of walking to church sounds so very appealing! Looking at all these tropical plants sure makes me feel warmer on a snow day here. The climbing cactus is crazy! Somehow it reminds me of Medusa's head. I find it so charming that you ran into a supersized egret along your way. I'm so glad you are enjoying your winter break in a warmer climate!

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    1. Gosh, the southeast is having a time of it this winter, isn't it? Hopefully you'll be done with it very soon! The egret was fun. The "Medusa's head" cactus was weird. There are so many interesting plants down here. Thanks, Karin.

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  8. I want that egret for a pet. How cool was that to see him so close up. What a fun outing you must have had.

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    1. I know, he's cute. I have a bit of an optical zoom on my camera, but I'd estimate I got to within 12 feet of the bird. It was a beautiful morning for a walk!

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  9. Lovely stroll Beth. Don't feel too guilty about your warmth, it's warm and sunny here on the west coast too. But I really do feel for my New England friends and everyone on the eastern seaboard actually. The egret is such a marvelous creature. He reminds me of Jeeves, the butler. When do the cactus bloom in Florida, do you know?

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    1. I know--I keep thinking about my family and friends back in the Midwest (and friends in the east and southeast). I wish they could all be here with me. I got all excited about the egret, and then realized it's probably common for Florida people to see them all the time. ;-) Regarding the cactuses, I guess it depends on the species. Some of them are blooming now. I suppose the blooming continues through the next few months.

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  10. Oh that looks wonderful, I can feel the warmth and just love the egret. Don't feel guilty, enjoy every minute.

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    1. OK, I'll try not to feel too guilty. The egret was cute--hanging out there by the front of the church. This is a great place to be this time of year.

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  11. Smart not guilty Beth. I wish I could participate but truthfully all anyone would see is 6-8 foot piles of snow....so it looks like I won't be part of this again. Loved the egret and that cactus in the lawn is unusual.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. At first, I felt like I simply needed the warmth. As time is going by, I'm thinking about all my friends and family having a tough winter and I feel bad for them. I'm glad my hubby and kids will be able to be here for part of the time. :)

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  12. That egret is very cool! We saw climbing cactus when we were in Los Angeles. What a bizarre plant. Enjoy your time in Florida! It's snowing here as I write this.

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    1. Yes, nifty bird. :) I agree--very strange to see a cactus climbing up a tree. I don't remember seeing that before. I noticed that Chicago and S. Wisconsin were getting snow today. Hopefully not too much!

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  13. Love the Spanish moss and the egret, and that is one funky cactus growing up the side of that tree. We actually got above freezing yesterday, but were back below it with snow again today. So ready for spring! ;-)

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    1. Yes, the family is keeping me posted on how miserable it is back home. ;-) Unusually cold for late February. Sounds like next week will be a little warmer for y'all, Heather. Yay! Isn't that cactus interesting?

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  14. I imagine you are enjoying the warmer temps there. As much as I am tired of the cold, I wouldn't be able to be away from home for that long. I know others who do, though. It was fun to see the plants from the area.

    Thanks for your comment on my WW post. I am actually getting used to the smaller screen faster than I thought I would.

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    1. Yes, the warmth has been wonderful. It was a little cooler today, but nothing compared with the Midwest and East. Sounds like everyone's temps will moderate a bit next week. Cheers!

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  15. The spanish moss is so fascinating. They grows so well. Thanks for sharing the beauty.

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    1. Love the Spanish Moss! I'm glad you enjoyed the winter walk-off. :)

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  16. What a wonderful walk, to a gardener it is fascinating to see the variety of tropical plants. The climbing cactus looks very like my Night Blooming Cereus which always wants to climb. I love all the Spanish Moss everywhere.

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    1. Yes, it's great fun to visit a new place and see new plants! I believe the cactus is some species of Selenicereus, but I'm no expert when it comes to cactuses. Another name for the one I found is Moonlight Cactus. Maybe they're the same?

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  17. Walking in foreign environments is one of the great joys of travel. I'm sure it seems mundane to natives but I share your fascination. It all feels very exotic to me.

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Ricki! I love plants and I love to travel--perfect combination! And, yes, it feels wonderfully exotic to see Spanish Moss draping over everything. :)

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  18. It's always fun to see what's growing in a totally different environment. I remember the first time I visited my daughter when she lived in Arizona, and I was so taken with the bougainvillea. I had no idea what it was, and I'm sure I amused the locals by asking what it was, because it grew everywhere! I can't get over the cactus in the lawn--you certainly wouldn't want to walk on this lawn barefoot:) And how fun to see the egret along the way! No walking here, unless I put on my snow boots. Yes, we're all jealous, but enjoy your stay!

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    1. No kidding about the lawn! I'm still trying to figure out why they'd leave a cactus growing in the middle of the lawn, with no marker or mulch around it. Maybe to keep the dogs off the lawn? I love Bougainvillea! They're growing all over the place here, too!

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  19. Hi,
    This was so fun and refreshing. Another COLD blast here in Wisconsin.
    I love the egret. Beautiful!
    I also love the pine cones. Are they real big?

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    1. That's what I hear (re: the cold blast). Ugh. The forecast looks a little warmer next week? Hang in there! It's going to be tough for me to go back to the cold in March. The pine cones are various sizes--some large, some small. There are many pine trees (and other conifers) of various species here. I love the huge, established ones! It seems strange to see conifers and oaks and palms all together in the same forest!

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  20. I love how different you home is to mine , and what's growing there. I would have exploded with joy if I had come across a egret walking the streets..
    Amanda xxx

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    1. Well, this is my parents' winter home. Mine is very cold right now, so I'm visiting my folks in Florida, in the southern U.S. It's very different for me, too--like being in a different world. ;-) I did squeal in glee (in my head, anyway) when I saw the egret. It was surprisingly tame!

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  21. Oh my gosh, there are green things in other parts of the world? LOL.

    And I love those cactus growing up the tree, that's so interesting to see. Round here they would definitely be covered in a bit of snow.

    A tame egret...I saw a Blue Heron the other day...does that count.

    Jen

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    1. Yes, a Blue Heron counts. :) They're the same genus, right? Apparently, Great Egrets are "slightly smaller and more svelte" than Great Blue Herons, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The cactuses stopped me in my tracks, too.

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  22. Oh, I do envy you 24 degrees C, even though we have lovely spring weather here we are a long way off anything like that! Your walk had lots of interesting (read; alien!) plants, that tree with the cacti looks like small snakes to me too! I have never seen Spanish moss before, is it soft or hard? Thanks for the walk, I enjoyed it too, hope you are soaking up the sunshine to last you well into your own spring sunshine arrives :-)

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    1. Hi Helene: It has been very pleasant here--much different than February weather back home! Yes, alien (to me) plants! The Spanish Moss is wispy and crinkly. Sort of soft. Yes, Florida is a lovely place to be in late winter!

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  23. Today, when I am having the time to read your posts, the weather is so warm here, that I feel I'm in Florida with you! Hve fun!

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    1. I had a great time in Florida, Lula, thanks! I had a slow Internet connection there, though, so I'm just catching up with comments. Sounds like you've had some pleasant weather, too. Yay!

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  24. I too am fascinated by Spanish Moss and have some that came from Florida growing in my greenhouse. What a gorgeous tropical winter walk! Florida looks like an amazing place to garden! It would be like living in a greenhouse! Don't know if I could take the giant bugs and reptiles but growing crotons, palms, agave, and cacti outside would be incredible.

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    1. Your greenhouse is just ... amazing! I noticed in some of your photos that you had the Spanish Moss in there. Nice. I agree entirely about gardening in Florida -- all the pros and cons you mention. It's certainly an incredible place to visit in the middle of winter!

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  25. Not at all like Wisconsin! Very interesting to follow your walk though a FL neighborhood--we see many botanic gardens or spectacular gardens but the ordinary is almost more intriguing. Just about anything will grow in Florida--or to be more accurate--overgrow. I too love Spanish Moss, but mine is drying out--too arid in my climate.

    The Opuntia in the grass looks to be a "road kill cactus", Consolea rubescens aka Opuntia rubescens, native to the Caribbean (Haiti and the like).

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    1. No, totally different. ;-)

      I was thinking the same thing as I was taking my walk. It was like a botanical garden experience through an "ordinary" suburban Florida neighborhood. Fun to see. Thanks for the ID on the "Road Kill Cactus."

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  26. Wow! Winter sure looks different in Florida. Such gorgeous greenery! I love your egret photos best of all. I always wondered where our Maine egrets went in winter. You lucky birds!

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    1. That is so true! The egret was so tame--I was surprised. I don't know if they're the same egrets that spend the summer in Maine--I'm sure you know more about that than I do. They are stunning birds. You're lucky to have them in your part of the world during the summer!

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