Spring has come and there’s no better time than now to head outside and get some fresh air! UWF is unique in that we have about 50 miles of mapped nature trails that span through some of Florida’s native environments such as Longleaf Pine forests and fresh-water bayous! Within these environments, you can identify all sorts of organisms. Here are just a few creatures that you should look out for the next time you head out to the trails:
1. The Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus)
The gopher tortoise is one of my absolute favorites. Fun fact about this guy: Gopher Tortoises make burrows in the ground that they live and lay eggs in, but these burrows are also vital to other native species. These burrows provide shelter for other animals such as rabbits, frogs, snakes and mice during forest fires! Although if you find one these guys, remember, Gopher Tortoises are a federally protected species that you are not allowed to touch or handle. So please, enjoy their presence from afar.
2. The Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
Longleaf Pine forests span through most of the southeastern united states and are a key player in the natural environment. UWF’s very own Dr. Jason Ortegren found the world’s oldest known to date Longleaf Pine Tree in North Carolina.
3. The Blue Dasher Dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis)
These handsome insects spend their larvae phase swimming around in the bayou. Because of their oxygen sensitivity in fresh-water they are indicators of water quality!
4. Pink Sundew (Drosera capillaris)
This carnivorous plant is native to Florida’s wetland and boggy environments. Sundew use a sticky residue to trap insects and then break them down for food. Harsh, but hey, it’s the circle of life!
5. Beauty Berry (Callicarpa Americana)
This berry is one of my absolute favorites to find while I’m taking a hike! The berries, although a stunning purple, are not that great to eat. Yes, they are edible, but you’d be better off using this plant’s leaves for natural insect repellent.
6. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
These endangered birds love pine forests but because of increased wild fires, land use changes, and deforestation, their populations are declining. If you get the chance to spot one of these, you’re one lucky duck.
These are just a few of Florida’s native wonders that you can find here on the UWF trails, but there is so much more worth discovering. So, grab a friend and water (hopefully in a reusable water bottle) and start your natural scavenger hunt on our very own UWF campus!