Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday - The Strangler

A few weeks ago on Outdoor Wednesday, I took you for a walk at the Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve and told you about the three varieties of Mangrove Trees that grow there. Just outside the fence that protects this area is another interesting tree, or I should say trees as you will see.

Attached to the preserve is a lovely park with picnic tables, a dog park, and a playground for the children. BUT, something lurks there that is sinister — a strangler!

What do you think of this tree trunk? Unusual, yet interesting, don't you agree?

This is a Ficus aurea, known as the Florida Strangler Fig. A native of Florida, this tree grows in a most unusual way. Let me back up and show you something you may never have seen. Look in the top, right area of this photo. See anything? As usual, you can click on any photos to enlarge them.

Okay, let me zoom in a little to give you a better look. See it now? Are those palm fronds up there growing out of this tree?

Now let me back up and give you an overview of this tree/trees.

Isn't that crazy? A palm tree growing right out of the middle of the Strangler! I walked around to another side to give you another look. See how this Sabal Palm (aka Cabbage Palm) is completely encased in the Strangler?

How did this happen? Well, the figs produced by the tree are ingested by birds, who then "disperse" them. (NOTE: Studies show that seeds that pass through the digestive system of the birds are more likely to geminate.) This germination usually takes place in the canopy of a host tree, which is this case was our unsuspecting, unfortunate palm.

The Strangler then grows as an epiphyte, or air plant as they are commonly called. The epiphyte derives moisture and nutrients from the air and rain, so it thrives in our humid climate in Florida. Over time prop roots grow down the trunk of the host tree, eventually enveloping it and becoming a tree itself. Essentially, it strangles the host tree, which will eventually die. The palm tree here is holding its own for now and made for an interesting photo shoot.

So, is the Florida Strangler Fig really a terrible tree? No, in the Circle of Life, the Strangler, with all its little nooks and crannies, provides a natural shelter for birds, small mammals such as squirrels, and reptiles.
The figs it produces feeds our wildlife, including Pegoscapus mexicanus, a small wasp that goes largely unnoticed, but can only survive because of the Strangler.

Here is one last shot of the Strangler. See the Sabal Palm nearby? Do you think he's a little nervous after witnessing what happened to his friend?

That's it for today. For those of you who were here last Wednesday, you saw I had planted my Plumeria seeds. Well, they sprouted and I posted pics yesterday, it was all very exciting.

Now, quick, get out of here before the Strangler sees you! Go over to Susan's @ A Southern Daydreamer, where it's nice and safe and you'll find links for others who have Outdoor Wednesday postings.

21 Thoughtful Comments:

Anonymous said...

I was always enthralled by these strange trees when we first moved here and I thought it was some sort of virus or mutant DNA. It is a pretty cool adaptation. I didn't know about the fig wasps and that was very interesting. A good bit of reference Rhonda. Happy Wednesday!


Blue Creek Home said...

Thank you so much for that lovely, lovely comment!
The strangler is bazaar enough, but add the crazy palm tree and you have one wild looking tree!

Ali said...

Glorious!!! What a great read too!

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Oh Rhonda!
I love this tree. It is absolutely beautiful, and as I was looking at the pics, that is what I was thinking what a wonderful place for all of God's creatures. SO many little nooks and crannies, and so large it would house many. Great post honey. Great post. Country Hugs, Sherry

Anonymous said...

Oh how amazing! I love those trees, I don't like that they strangle the others, but what imagery they create!!!! Love this post Rhonda! :)

Cass @ That Old House said...

Holy smokes. I think I have to go hide under my bed... a sinister tree!

It really is beautiful. And I guess I could think of this as a palm makeover, perhaps?


Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

Each tree symbolic, metaphoric in its form, its substance, its pattern of growth. You have redefined the "Strangler" as "An Embracer"- and so we see the splendor of nature - a deeply nurturing presence.

Great post. Felt as if I were by your side, looking up with your camera!

Maya said...

This is so interesting..., that's the way nature works, right. Everything makes perfectly sense. Happy OW!

Magdalena said...

Oh how I wish I had that tree in my back yard. what fun parties I could throw under it.
lovely post
I have so much fun visiting your blog.

Lillian Robinson said...

I don't remember ever seeing that tree. Of course, I don't remember what I had for breakfast. LOL

My dad (in Sanford) has a palm growing in the crook of his old Oak, but the Oak was there first...

Shellbelle said...

Rain, I knew you would love this post. I want to go back now and look for the "faces" you wouldn't have missed!

Rose Marie, I love "Embracer" so much more than Strangler. I think I tell everyone this when I take them to the preserve.

Cass, "a palm makeover" is just too funny!

Thanks for stopping by everyone, I'm glad to see you all found this tree, or rather, these trees as interesting as I did. I love all your comments!

Tootsie said...

very cool....I like how different it looks!! didn't know about the seeds and the birds eating thing...makes sense that it will soften the shell of the seed to allow it to crack enough!!! thanks for the silly comment and the visit today!

happy weekend!

Lynette said...

How truly interesting - who would've thunk it?

I loved your Plumeria post though - I have 2 plants I ordered from Hawaii - 1 bloomed year before last and smelled out of this world good!! Don't see any sign of blooms this year - just great big leaves - we'll see??

If you'd like - stop back by and enter my first ever giveaway - easy peasy - just vist and comment -

Happy Hump Day -

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Rhonda!
Thanks for coming by for a visit to my blog! Happy Outdoor Wednesday.

I enjoyed reading about the Florida Strangler Fig as I never heard of it before! It's so unusual. I'm going to read your post from last week also.

Debra from Bungalow said...

Hi Rhonda,
Thanks for stopping by. I've never seen a tree like that before. It's amazing. Trees are one of my favorite things in nature...they are so pretty to look at.

Hope you'll stop by again and follow to!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

That is so cool! Great post and thanks for the botany lesson too :)


Kat said...

What an interesting post. This tree is really beautiful, but I'm sure it's neighbors are nervous lol. I just love visiting your blog, I always learn something new and interesting. And you know what they say, lifetime learners get to take 2 1/2 yrs off of their age! Great shots of the tree, your photography really is lovely. Kathy

Regina said...

Hi Rhonda. Nice post as always.
Happy outdoor.

Tootie said...

I find the strangler figs sooo interesting. We have so many of them here on Sanibel Island. I have wanted to do a post about them for a long time and I was happy to see yours.

Martha said...

How interesting. Nature is amazing.

Anonymous said...

These trees are amazing. I love how all ove the branches intertwine and wrap themselves together. Very interesting.

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