Story and photography by Jude Simpson, President, Hernando Chapter

Our September & October programs provided great preparation for the field trip on October 18, lead by Jim King, with Dr. Shirley Denton and the Suncoast Chapter as guests.

Jim King, who is Hernando County's Conservations Lands Specialist, spoke at our September meeting about Sandhill restoration at Cypress Lakes Preserve, which contains at least eight different natural plant communities, several of which are priorities for conservation.  

In October, Dr. Walter Taylor talked about his recent book, Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities, using examples from scrub and marsh communities, both of which are present at Cypress Lakes Preserve. 

Restoration effort have returned native fall wildflowers to the landscape at Cypress Lakes Preserve. These species emerged on their own as soon as fire and mechanical clearing produced the right conditions. 

On October 18, we had the distinct pleasure to visit Cypress Lakes with Jim King and Shirley Denton, and to see for ourselves the results of three years of restoration effort, including a burn in 2013 which included Sandhill, Scrub and Marsh communities. The fall wildflowers were spectacular. 

One highlight was going off trail to a north facing slope that was bursting with a wild diversity of Sandhill species, including Lop-sided Indian Grass, Wild Buckwheat, Summer Farewell, Liatris species, and many others. Contributing to the learning, our group included folks with expertise in geology and entomology as well as native plants, which added to our appreciation of the ecology.

Another highlight was a visit to one of the two scrub areas which has an unusual population of intensely purple blue curls, and discussing the speculation in the botanical community about whether this may be a separate species or a local ecotype adapted to the particular harsh conditions of the scrub.

HCFNPS will continue to assist Hernando County with updating the plant survey for this Preserve. Since last fall, we have confirmed the presence of many of the more than 350 species that were present in 2004, and have added four additional species to the list. Dr, Denton helped to confirm the ID of Froelichia floridana (Snakecotton), a new addition to the list, on October 18.