Go Wild: Explore A State Park
Anyone who knows me knows that I long for the Florida of my youth – a state filled with natural beauty, native plants and wildlife. Lots and lots of wildlife.
People call this Florida – the Florida of my memories and of my dreams – the real Florida. As I was reminded recently, “the Real Florida” is also the tagline for Florida’s state parks system. This system protects, interprets, and works to restore 81 of Florida’s 84 natural communities home to the plants and animals living in them.
Exploring one of our state parks is a great way to learn about our natural communities and the different plants and wildlife each community supports. For instance, Goethe State Forest, which is less than a two-hour drive away from Little Red Wagon, is home to 19 different natural communities ranging from sandhill to mesic flatwood to hydric hammock and dome swamp. When I walked there this past weekend, I saw Byssus Skippers, Aaron’s Skipper, Northern Cloudywings, Gray Hairstreaks, and Viceroys all nectaring on marsh rattlesnake (Eryngium aquaticum) while Horace’s Duskywings and Phaon Crescents enjoyed tickseeds and other coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.). For my birding friends, the forest supports significant populations of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, which is a habitat specialist. (Notably, Audubon recognizes Goethe State Forest as an important bird area that supports a total of 117 native bird species.)
Closer to home, Hillsborough River State Park contains cypress swamps, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. The park is home to bobcats, gopher tortoises, Sherman’s fox squirrels, and numerous other mammals, reptiles and amphibians and birds, each with its own unique habitat requirements.