The Nature of Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area
The allure of the area around Apalachicola is that there are so many public land recreation opportunities that you really can’t go wrong with just about anywhere you decide to go. Our first full day of Spring Break we opted to start out our explorations at the Apalachicola River WEA because it had both car and trail access, plus a boardwalk out into Apalachicola Bay at the south end. A note, if you do decide to visit, know that some areas may be impassable with a typical car and many trucks during certain times of year. Water covers some of the more remote roads and it forced us to turn around and even Chris’ truck wouldn’t have managed those. Bring a swamp buggy! (I’m only half joking!)
It was quite early in the season yet, even for Florida, but we were instantly greeted with White Wild Indigo, Baptisia alba not very far into our drive. This started the in-and-out of the truck rotation we continued throughout our entire drive through the WEA. See something interesting? Jump out and fawn over it and other plants, get back into the truck and drive 100 yards, wash, rinse, repeat.
American Snowbell, Styrax americanus
The first of many pipewort encounters! Flattened Pipewort, Eriocaulon compressum
The one plant that was showing off all over the area was Flatwoods St. John’s-Wort, Hypericum microsepalum and other related hypericums!
Dwarf Sundew, Drosera brevifolia
Orange Milkwort, Polygala lutea
Being back into the swamps of Florida was a balm for my soul. Texas swamps are lovely and they speak to me in a different way but there’s nothing like a Florida wetland.
Fence Long-legged Cobweaver, Theridion murarium. Going slow enough to look for the tiny treasures is what takes a hike and makes it something so much better.
I happened to find this empty polyphemus moth cocoon when I stopped to use a cabbage palm tree and empty my bladder. I looked down to swat at some mosquitoes and there it was! The benefits of peeing in the woods…finding moth cocoons?? haha!
At the end of Sand Beach road there’s a parking area for the tower and a short trail that winds back into a cabbage palm forest adjacent to a wetland. Back when we started our drive two FWC employees had come by and mentioned that they were going to have some kind of festival out there soon so they were out checking on the trail and driving around to see what needed to be addressed for maintenance. We talked to them for a few minutes and they took our photo but I never did figure out if they posted it anywhere! But the two ended up walking along the trail later to do some minor cleanup of overhanging cabbage palm fronds and such. The trail is not that well visited, though it is well-marked. I don’t know if I would go down it in the summer with the mosquitoes but for spring it was worth it!
Forest really enjoyed this large palm frond that had been cut down.
Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia
Bear’s Foot, Smallanthus uvedalia was growing in the shady edges near the parking area. I don’t come across this very often in Texas so it was a delight to see in such an easy to access area.
Even if you don’t do the trail and you make a beeline down Sand Beach road for the tower area, it is worth it. The views along this area of the bay are sweeping and gorgeous. It was quite windy while we were there but on a calmer day this would have been a good place to set-up for some plein air landscape painting.
It was great fun to see the Florida species of the ‘bog buttons’ and milkwort. That’s some fine-looking sundew, too. I’ve found plenty of it in the Big Thicket, but only at the end of the season when they’re a little sorry-looking. Maybe this spring I’ll find some nice, fresh ones!
You really do have an eagle eye for finding lots of things in nature.
Patrice La Vigne
I love the large palm frond!! Was it heavy?