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.
I love the beach and everything that goes with it! I love the waves lapping at my feet. I love the feel of the sand between my toes. I love the roar of the Pacific and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Let's talk about beaches around the world, bonfires, building sandcastles, swaying palm trees, flamingos, clambakes, sunrises and sunsets. If it's tropical, it fits this blog!