Tag Archives: cycads

Flora and fauna, a contrast

I grew up here:

Home sweet home.

Note the palm trees, cycads, birds of paradise, top of head of our old dog Yogi, and house with stucco. That’s South Florida- few houses are taller than one story, and plants are lush and tropical.

On may way to campus to run errands today, it was gorgeous out, and on my walk I noticed just how different life is here:

Note the 3-story building with basement (not pictured), wooden siding, and Mansard roof.

For one, most houses here were built in the 1800s, whereas my house in Florida was built in 1998. The wooden siding and basement in the apartment I live in would be mildewed and full of water, respectively, if they existed in my Florida home, which is exactly  6 feet above sea level.

Observe the flora of my block:

Hydrangeas, Black-eyed Susans, Amaryllis… I think.

None of these grow in Florida. In fact, the only flowering plant I’ve seen in both places:

Yeah, didn’t even notice the bumblebee in this one.

My backyard in Florida offers up a number of delightful creatures, from the Jesus lizard (it walks on water, e.g., our pool), to the poisonous/hallucinogenic Bufo toad (don’t lick), to the good ol’ gator (well, not IN my backyard, but NEAR it).

Up here, wildlife sightings include cuddly bunnies, a few skunks, the occasional wild turkey, and today, this charming fellow:

He’s an American Goldfinch. The site I linked is very handy for figuring out what bird you just saw.

This guy is the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa and Washington. Basically they hang out all over America, and even winter in Florida. For some reason, the state bird of Florida is the mockingbird (or lame-ass brown ugly bird, its scientific name), not the little green parrot, which as far as I can tell is some type of Amazon parrot, which you can see in flocks in South Florida and are much more exciting.

Unfortunately, like many of the more exciting species in Florida, the parrots, like the toads and lizards mentioned above, are invasive, as are some plant species such as the melaleuca tree. I can only hope this happens less often now, but it was common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries to introduce a new species to get rid of a native “pest,” to hunt for sport, or in the case of melaleuca trees, to help drain the Everglades. Unfortunately, since these new species tend not to have natural predators in their new habitat, fucked up shit goes down. Melaleuca trees, besides assisting in destroying the habitats of other animals and plants, are incredibly hard to kill and are now classified as a noxious weed. Rabbits, introduced to Australia for hunting, do fun stuff like killing native plants and contributing to soil erosion.

Moral of the story? Plants and animals are cool, except when they fuck everything up because stupid humans decided to put them were they don’t belong. Hooray!