"Sunset over the preserve, Big Cypress National Preserve, 2015." by U.S. National Park Service , public domain

Big Cypress

National Preserve - Florida

Big Cypress National Preserve is located in southern Florida, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Miami. The 720,000-acre (2,900 km2) Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when they were established on October 11, 1974.



Official Visitor Map of Big Cypress National Preserve (NPres) in Florida. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).Big Cypress - Visitor Map

Official Visitor Map of Big Cypress National Preserve (NPres) in Florida. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the U.S. National Park System. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).National Park System - National Park Units

Map of the U.S. National Park System. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the U.S. National Park System with Unified Regions. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).National Park System - National Park Units and Regions

Map of the U.S. National Park System with Unified Regions. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the U.S. National Heritage Areas. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).National Park System - National Heritage Areas

Map of the U.S. National Heritage Areas. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Official Highway Map South of Florida. Published by the Florida Department of Transportation.Florida State - Highway Map South 2023

Official Highway Map South of Florida. Published by the Florida Department of Transportation.

https://www.nps.gov/bicy/index.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Cypress_National_Preserve Big Cypress National Preserve is located in southern Florida, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Miami. The 720,000-acre (2,900 km2) Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when they were established on October 11, 1974. The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support the rich marine estuaries along Florida's southwest coast. Conserving over 729,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to diverse wildlife, including the Endangered Florida panther. Big Cypress National Preserve is located along Tamiami Trail East (US 41) and I-75 in southern Florida. The preserve can be accessed by driving from the cities of Miami and Naples. The preserve's two visitor centers are located along Tamiami Trail East. Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center is a facility that was designed with energy conservation in mind, making maximum use of renewable resources. The visitor center offers indoor and outdoor exhibits related to the history of the Big Cypress Swamp, as well as printed materials and an introductory film to the Preserve, its resources and recreational opportunities. The auditorium is available to reserve. From Naples: Heading east on US41, just a few miles east of SR29. Heading south on I-75, exit SR-29 south (toll), then turn left to head east on US41, OR exit onto N Collier Blvd (toll free) heading south, then turn left onto US41. From Miami: Head west on US41. The Welcome Center is on the left shortly after MM 74. Oasis Visitor Center The Oasis Visitor Center contains exhibits related to the natural and cultural history of the preserve, educational materials, sales items, and an introductory film. Staff are available to assist visitors with information about available activities. If driving from Miami, visitors will find it fastest to find US-41 / Tamiami Trail northbound (called SW 8th Street in Miami itself) and proceed northbound (techinically, you are travelling west) all the way out. From the Keys or Homestead, Florida, we recommend taking 997 Krome Avenue, North to reach US-41. Once you leave the edge of Miami (at the intersection of US-41 / 997) you will drive about 40 miles. Oasis Visitor Center is located on the right, on the north side of US-41. Bear Island Campground Primitive campground with no water. Vault toilets available. Forty designated sites. Access to the Bear Island Campground is at the end of a 20-mile secondary gravel road All Sites 10.00 This is for one night of camping for RV or tent Bear Island Campground Entrance two dirt paths diverge with palm trees in the background The entrance to Bear Island Campground Campsite in Bear Island Campground campsite with a picnic table and fire ring one of the campsites in the Bear Island Campground Burns Lake Primitive camping with no water. Vault toilets available. This site provides day use picnic area and backcountry access parking. The campground accommodates 15 designated RV/tent sites. all sites 24.00 tent and RV sites are the same cost. campsite at Burns Lake campsite with picnic table and fire ring campsite with picnic table and fire ring Gator Head This is a primitive campground, which contains nine campsites. No water. Vault toilets are available. This campground is accessible only by permitted off-road vehicles, biking or hiking. Tent Fee 10.00 Fee is for tent camping. An ORV permit is required to access the campground. A Campsite in Gator Head Campground A campsite in Gator Head Campground with a picnic table and fire ring A campsite in Gator Head Campground with a picnic table and fire ring Midway Campground This campground offers electric hookups for RV sites, dump station, flush toilets, and water. Each RV campsite has its own picnic table and hibachi style grill. Covered picnic areas are located around the lake for day use. RV site 30.00 RV sites have a picnic table, paved pad, and electric hookup tent site 24.00 Tent sites are on the grass with a picnic table. Campsite in Midway campground Campsite in Midway Campground with paved pad and picnic table Campsite in Midway Campground with paved pad and picnic table Mitchell's Landing Primitive camping with no water. Vault toilets are available. Eleven sites available. Access to the Mitchell Landing Campground is along a secondary gravel road. camping fee 24.00 This is the camping fee for tent and RV. Campsite in Mitchell's Landing Campground Campsite in Mitchell's Landing Campground Campsite in Mitchell's Landing Campground with picnic table and fire ring Monument Lake Monument Lake campground offers restrooms, drinking water and designated 26 RV and 10 tent sites. NO HOOKUPS for electricity, sewer or water are available at this campground. fee for RV site 28.00 This includes a picnic table, flush restrooms and access to drinking water. Tent Site at Monument Lake Campground 24.00 This includes a picnic table, fire ring, flush restrooms and access to drinking water. RV campsite at Monument Lake RV campsite at Monument Lake RV campsite at Monument Lake with picnic table Pinecrest This campground is for group camping only. Four sites available to accommodate eight tents at 15 people each.There is no water or restroom facilities. Access to the Pinecrest Campground is along a secondary gravel road. fee for Pinecrest 30.00 each site has a picnic table. No water or toilet facilities are provided. group campsite at Pinecrest group campsite at Pinecrest with picnic tables group campsite at Pinecrest with picnic tables Pink Jeep This is a primitive campground, containing nine campsites. No water. Vault toilets are available. Pink Jeep can be accessed by off-road vehicle, hiking or biking. Backcountry permits are required for all, off-road vehicle permits are required for off-road vehicles. tent site fee 10.00 sites have a picnic table and fire ring. campsite at Pink Jeep Campground campsite at Pink Jeep Campground with picnic table and fire ring campsite at Pink Jeep Campground with picnic table and fire ring Small Alligator A small alligator basking on top of dry vegetation. Alligators, big and small, call Big Cypress National Preserve home. Depths of the Swamp A water filled swamp filled with lush green ferns and trees. Cypress swamps while appearing mysterious, are peaceful and serene. Canoeing through mangrove tunnels two visitors in a canoe go through mangrove tunnels on the Turner River Canoeing is one of the many activities you can enjoy in Big Cypress Florida Panther a Florida Panther sits in a tree The Florida Panther is one of the most iconic animals of Big Cypress Sunrise in Big Cypress palm trees emerge out of the fog in an orange sunrise palm trees emerge out of the fog as an orange sunrise dots the landscape Prairies and Pine Lands in Big Cypress A prairie foreground with tall pine trees in the background. A large blue sky with white cloud large open expanses of prairie bordered by pine lands create stunning landscapes Alligators of Big Cypress Two Alligators rest on a river bank Two Alligators rest on a river bank Partnerships add a Charge to your Travel Plans The National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, BMW of North America, the U.S. Department of Energy, concessioners, and gateway communities have collaborated to provide new technologies for travel options to and around national parks. As part of this public-private partnership, BMW of North America, working through the National Park Foundation, donated and arranged for the installation of 100 electric vehicle (EV) charging ports in and around national parks. Aviation Supports Environmental Protection Agency Research in South Florida The National Park Service continues to extend its aviation support beyond the traditional fire realm. Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks’ Aviation programs are working together with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support a complex aviation-dependent research project called the Everglades Ecosystem Assessment Program (EEAP). Two helicopters at Everglades National Park Listening to the Eclipse: National Park Service scientists join Smithsonian, NASA in nationwide project A solar eclipse is visually stunning, but what will it sound like? NPS scientists will find out by recording sounds in parks across the USA. An NPS scientist installs audio recording equipment in a lush valley at Valles Caldera NP. Mud Lake Complex Facilitated Learning Analysis at Big Cypress, a Learning-Focused Organization After the Mud Lake Complex wildfires, Big Cypress leaders requested an independent interagency team of fire management professionals was asked to oversee a Facilitated Learning Analysis. The willingness on the part of Big Cypress demonstrated that they are a learning-focused organization that continually looks for ways to improve. Big Cypress National Preserve Wildland Fire & Aviation Program logo NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Each park-specific page in the NPS Geodiversity Atlas provides basic information on the significant geologic features and processes occurring in the park. Links to products from Baseline Geologic and Soil Resources Inventories provide access to maps and reports. park wetlands Sea-level rise and inundation scenarios for national parks in South Florida A review of the science leads researchers to project sea level rise and inundation, trends in the frequency of nuisance flooding, recurrence intervals of storm surge, and impacts on infrastructure intended to provide useful information for managers and planners. Median RCP8.5 mean sea-level elevation projections for Everglades and Biscayne; NPS/Everglades NP Fire Communication and Education Grants Enhance Fire Interpretation and Outreach in the National Parks in 2015 and Beyond The 2015 National Park Service Fire Communication and Education Grant Program provided funding for projects, programs, or tasks in twelve parks around the country. A woman studies a small coniferous tree while a younger woman looks on. National Park Getaway: Big Cypress National Preserve Just one hour west of Miami along the Tamiami Trail, the opportunity to experience something magnificent is waiting in each of the 729,000 acres of pristine swamplands, prairies, and hammocks that make up Big Cypress National Preserve. Paddler going through mangroves Interagency Collaboration in Protecting Communities and Managing Public Lands Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY) of the National Park Service (NPS) and Florida Panther (Panther) National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) have one of the most successful examples of just what interagency cooperation and collaboration looks like. BICY and Panther are partners in the joint Southwest Florida and Caribbean Wildland Fire and Aviation Program, or SWFLCAR (pronounced “Swiffle Car”). SWFLCAR Logo Big Cypress National Preserve Firefighters Develop Successful Plan for Prioritizing and Treating Hazardous Fuels Prioritizing fuels treatments that benefit the park and community can be difficult, because these goals may conflict in Big Cypress NP. Areas were defined as high priority if they have not burned for more than 5 years, lie less than 0.5 mile to the nearest structure or road, and are located within or adjacent to pinelands or prairies. Areas meeting these criteria were identified as requiring immediate treatment. In early 2012, approximately 45,000 acres had been treated. Small flames consume grass. Park Hosts Water Ditching and Survival Training Course NPS and USFWS students began the process of becoming certified instructors for the A-312 water ditching and survival course, which is designed to provide the skills needed to safely exit an aircraft that has made an emergency landing in water. Two people wearing helmets sit in a cage with their arms crossed across their chests 2002 NPS Environmental Achievement Awards Recipients of the 2002 NPS Environmental Achievement Awards Huckabee Fire Response Initial attack operations for the Huckabee Fire focused on Highway 29 and I-75 as the major concerns to firefighter and public safety. Widespread media interest and the extensive wildland urban interface made a public information officer an essential part of the team. Big Cypress and its partners have used prescribed fire and managed wildfire for several decades to reduce hazardous fuels and diminish the risk of wildfire to life, property, and resources in South Florida. Wildland Fire and Aviation Excellence Award Presented to James Sullivan James Sullivan, South Florida Parks and Preserve Chief of Wildland Fire and Aviation, receives the 2019 NPS Interior Region 2 Wildland Fire and Aviation Excellence Award. Department of the Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt presented the award alongside Pedro Ramon, the Superintendent of Everglades National Park. The award recognizes outstanding achievements in leadership development, operational leadership, and cooperation and collaboration. Three men stand on asphalt in front of wooded area. The man in the center is holding an award. NPS Aviation Programs Support Environmental Protection Agency Research Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks’ aviation programs are working together with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support a complex aviation-dependent research project called the Everglades Ecosystem Assessment Program (EEAP). An A-Star helicopter and a Bell 206 helicopter. The Frontline Over the course of the last few months we have watched our way of life change dramatically as COVID-19 has forced people to learn to live much more cautiously. And yet, with all that is happening, some things continue on as they always have. Firefighters suppressing wildfire at night Series: NPS Environmental Achievement Awards Since 2002, the National Park Service (NPS) has awarded Environmental Achievement (EA) Awards to recognize staff and partners in the area of environmental preservation, protection and stewardship. A vehicle charges at an Electric Vehicle charging station at Thomas Edison National Historical Park Data Manager Profile: Judd Patterson Meet Judd Patterson, Data Manager for the South Florida Caribbean Network. As a data manager, helps wrangle all the information that we collect on the health of our park resources. Judd is excited about the stories data can tell through time, whether that's looking back at park records from over a hundred years ago, or making sure the science we do in our parks today become time capsules for future generations to learn about how things were back in 2021. Data manager Judd Patterson smiles at the camera while holding camera equiment. Connecting Fire, Connecting Conservation Fire burns across south Florida in a landscape level prescribed fire operation. Fire burns and smoke billows across south Florida landscape Demonstrated Successes in 2021 for South Florida’s Exclusive Use Contract Helicopter In February 2021, South Florida Fire and Aviation transitioned to an Exclusive Use (EU) Contract helicopter while continuing to operate a DOI fleet aircraft as well. Acquisition of this EU helicopter brought substantial improvement through its ability to perform fire suppression and prescribed fire missions. Aerial view of helicopter flying above burning south Florida landscape. Changing Patterns of Water Availability May Change Vegetation Composition in US National Parks Across the US, changes in water availability are altering which plants grow where. These changes are evident at a broad scale. But not all areas experience the same climate in the same way, even within the boundaries of a single national park. A new dataset gives park managers a valuable tool for understanding why vegetation has changed and how it might change in the future under different climate-change scenarios. Green, orange, and dead grey junipers in red soil, mountains in background Art in the South Florida Parks Learn about the significance of art in the National Park system and see three selections from the South Florida National Parks. A three-panel woodcut print showing the diversity of the Big Cypress swamp by artist Molly Doctrow. Rare Plant and High-tech Microscope: A Surprising Conservation Story Two closely related plants grow near one another in Big Cypress National Preserve. One type is federally threatened, and the other is not. In other areas they can be distinguished from one another by the fuzziness of their leaves, but in Big Cypress this does not hold true. So how do botanists tell them apart for monitoring and stewardship? Still by their leaves, but at a microscopic level. Read our story to learn more. Plant stem with green leaves. Undersides of the leaves have a fuzzy/hairy appearance. Estuary Landforms Estuaries are buffer zones between river (freshwater) and ocean (saltwater) environments that are affected by tidal oscillations. sunset over wetlands Active fuels management leads to success for fire suppression South Florida Fire & Aviation (SFFA) has seen a significant decrease in the size and complexity of wildfires across south Florida over the past several years. The parks’ goal is to apply prescribed fire on each burn unit every five years. Approximately 50% of these burn unit acres have been treated with prescribed fire since fiscal year 2018. A helicopter flies over a burning forest. Partnerships assist in reaching prescribed fire goals in south Florida parks Crews from the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Forest Service, and the US Forest Service came together to complete two prescribed fire projects in June 2022. The fires, East Hinson prescribed fire and Northeast prescribed fire, were funded for $34,400.00. A portion of both fires used Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, which was instrumental in the success of these projects. Two wildland firefighters ride through the marsh in an airboat. Series: Beach and Coastal Landforms Our national parks contain diverse coastal landforms: high-energy rocky shorelines of Acadia National Park, quiet reef-lagoons within War in the Pacific National Historic Park, and the white sandy beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Coastal landforms are, or have been, affected to some degree by the direct or indirect effects of waves, tides, and currents, and may extend inland for many miles. aerial view of island and reef Series: Park Paleontology News - Vol. 15, No. 2, Fall 2023 All across the park system, scientists, rangers, and interpreters are engaged in the important work of studying, protecting, and sharing our rich fossil heritage. <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/newsletters.htm">Park Paleontology news</a> provides a close up look at the important work of caring for these irreplaceable resources. <ul><li>Contribute to Park Paleontology News by contacting the <a href="https://www.nps.gov/common/utilities/sendmail/sendemail.cfm?o=5D8CD5B898DDBB8387BA1DBBFD02A8AE4FBD489F4FF88B9049&r=/subjects/geoscientistsinparks/photo-galleries.htm">newsletter editor</a></li><li>Learn more about <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/">Fossils & Paleontology</a> </li><li>Celebrate <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/">National Fossil Day</a> with events across the nation</li></ul> Photo of a boulder with a dinosaur track on one side. A Glimpse into The Pleistocene Paleoecosystem of Big Cypress National Preserve In the late 1960s and early 1970s, work on a proposed jetport within what would become Big Cypress National Preserve serendipitously brought the Jet Age in contact with the Ice Age. A small collection of Pleistocene fossils including bones of mammoths, camels, and horses was uncovered in a buried river channel. These fossils, largely overlooked since then, have now been documented in the collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Photo of a fossil skull with ruler scale bar. Prescribed Fire: The best defense is a good offense Eight fuels treatments (seven prescribed fires and one mechanical treatment) in and around the northern part of Big Cypress National Preserve (North of I-75) were funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Aerial view of a dirt road with a large burned area to its right and vegetation to its left Fire on the Horizon: How South Florida is training future fire leaders to meet the Nation’s upcoming wildfire challenges South Florida Fire and Aviation is building mutually beneficial coalitions with agencies from around the country to help train and utilize required skillsets to meet the fire management workloads. The strategy is to utilize proactive prescribed fire to treat the ecosystem on a landscape level under moderate conditions, while simultaneously training the future generation of wildland firefighters. A man in protective gear looks out a helicopter window at the flames of a prescribed burn below Preserve Trivia: Big Cypress or Big Thicket? Two national preserves, Big Cypress and Big Thicket, are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2024! Can you guess which park is which? a graphic with curly text that reads "National Preserve" and 70s-themed text "trivia".
Big Cypress Big Cypress National Preserve Florida ¿POR QUÉ PREOCUPARSE UN PANTANO? ES DE AGUA DULCE W H Y C A R E A BOU T A SWA MP? IT’S FR ESH WATER Fresh water is vital to you and to much of the life on Earth. In South Florida it is essential for the livelihood of residents and for the health of our environment. To disrupt the water’s natural flow here can have harmful consequences for nature and the region’s economy. In 1974, Congress created Big Cypress National Preserve to protect the fresh water’s natural flow from the swamp into the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands. (See the water-flow diagram on the map.) In the Preserve, fresh water feeds a mosaic of five distinct habitats in its 729,000 acres and is vital to the health of southwest Florida’s estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico. After the Tamiami Trail was finished in 1928, South Florida saw its first real estate boom. Between the creation of Everglades National Park in 1947 and the late 1960s, the Big Cypress Swamp faced many threats. In 1968, construction of a massive jetport was begun; the ultimate plan was to create the world’s largest jetport with the world’s largest runway. The project, and subsequent development, would have devastated the natural flow of fresh water through the Big Cypress Swamp. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior protection for this unique landscape. To protect the swamp, the freshwater flow, and to honor customary uses of those who worked together to protect the area, Congress created a new type of parkland, a national preserve. Today, activities such as oil and gas exploration and extraction, hunting, off road vehicle use, private land ownership as well as customary and traditional uses by the Seminole and Miccosukee peoples continue. Su cerebro tiene algo en común con nuestro planeta: es 77 por ciento de agua, y el agua cubre el 71 por ciento de la superficie terrestre. Pero un mero tres por ciento de Agua de la Tierra es el agua dulce, sin la cual se puede vivir sólo unos pocos días. La agricultura, la ganadería, lavandería, y la vida silvestre requieren todo el agua dulce. Lo mismo sucede con todo el ecosistema del sur de Florida. Es por eso que, en 1974, el Congreso creó el Big Cypress National Preserve Pantano—Para proteger el flujo natural de agua dulce de los Everglades y el área de los Diez Mil Islas (ver diagrama de flujo de agua). Los estuarios, donde se mezclan agua dulce y salada, son las Ultimately, a diverse coalition including conservationists, hunters, private land owners and Seminole and Miccosukee peoples managed to stop the jetport development and secured permanent ”aguas abajo” del hábitat en mosaico de la Reserva de 729,000 acres de cinco hábitats. La construcción de la Tamiami Trail, la carretera se completó en 1928, provocó la primera gran especulación de bienes raíces en el sur de Florida. Entre el establecimiento de los Everglades como parque nacional en 1947 y finales de 1960, las muchas amenazas a la Big Cypress Swamp llevó conservacionistas, propietarios privados, cazadores y las tribus Seminole y Miccosukee de trabajar juntos para proteger a Big Cypress Swamp. En 1968 un Jetport fue construido, con la idea de añadir una segunda etapa. Esa etapa se han creado más grande Jetport del mundo con la mayor pista del mundo. También han causado la interrupción del flujo natural del agua a través del sur de Florida. Seis usos tradicionales de la zona estuvieron representadas por la intención de la coalición en la preservación de Big Cypress. Se trataba de exploración de petróleo y de gas, el uso de la caza, fuera de la carretera vehcle (ORV), la propiedad privada de la tierra, el pastoreo de ganado, y los usos consuetudinarios y tradicionales de la Seminole y Miccosukee. Queriendo honrar a estos usos y proyectarlas hacia el futuro, los legis Photo above: Cypress swamp, wet season (summer). En la creación de la Reserva, el Congreso honra de las costumbres. Aerial photo above: Cypress and pines mosaic, dry season (winter). En la creación de la Reserva, el Congreso honra de las costumbres. P. MARCELINI © RALPH ARWOOD Customary Uses Usos Habituales Marjorie Stoneman Douglas is identified with saving the Everglades but her group Friends of the Everglades played a major role in the coalition to protect the Big Cypress. Her book The Everglades describes the Big Cypress Swamp in depth. BOOK COVER © PINEAPPLE PRESS Marjorie Stoneman Douglas se convirtió en sinónimo de ahorro de los Everglades, sino también Big Cypress Swamp. En su libro sobre los Everglades (derecha) se escribe mucho acerca de Big Cypress. Sus Amigos de los Everglades fue en la coalición para salvar a Big Cypress Swamp, también.quedamos con el planeta. PINEAPPLE PRESS A Complete Ecosystem Un Ecosistema Completo The Preserve is the heart of the Florida panther’s primary range. Each individual of this endangered species is a critical member of the population. With top predators like panthers and alligators survi
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve Florida • Never feed wildlife. • View wildlife with respect. • All wildlife is wild and unpredictable. Stay a safe distance from any wild animal —15 feet is recommended. • All plants and animals within National Park Service areas are protected, and it is illegal to collect any wildlife without special permits. Cover photo: southern toad, NPS/JAN SHIREY N ati o n a l ese r ve EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA! se e Do Not Feed or Harass Wildlife ss Pr The tympanum of this Southern leopard frog is identified here. The Southern leopard frog can be distinguished because it has a yellow spot in the center of its tympanum. re Pr How You Behave Can Save oy Tympanum While visiting Big Cypress National Preserve, or any other natural area, remember: nj Drums in the Night Start a walk in the swamp at dusk and imagine listening to a symphony orchestra commence a soft prelude with the timpani drums beating with every step. As the sunlight dims, the music crescendos transitioning into the swamp’s own symphony of croaking. Seemingly on cue, males searching for a mate call out for females, veiled from predators in the darkness. Females hear the male serenades with their tympanum, the frog or toad’s outer ear located behind the eye. Amphibians use this tympanum, an ancient word in Greek meaning drum, because it resembles a piece of cloth stretched over a drum. Big Cypress Amphibians The thrill of watching a wild animal in its natural surroundings is spectacular and awe-inspiring, but please remember, you are the guest and they are at home. p Amphibians are animals that live a portion of their life in water. Some, like sirens, live their entire life in water. While the word “moist” may carry a negative connotation to some humans, most frogs and toads rely on keeping their skin moist to survive. Watching wildlife the responsible way... Big Cy Amphibians of the Swamp... rv e— t— P r o tec E Scientific Name Narrow-mouthed Toads ___Eastern narrow-mouthed toad Gastrophryne carolinensis Toads ___Giant, marine, or cane toad* ___Oak toad ___Southern toad Bufo marinus Bufo quercicus Bufo terrestris Treefrogs & Chorus Frogs ___Barking treefrog ___Cuban treefrog* ___Florida cricket frog ___Green treefrog ___Greenhouse frog ___Little grass frog ___Southern chorus frog ___Squirrel treefrog Hyla gratiosa Osteopilus septentrionalis Acris gryllus dorsalis Hyla cinerea Eleutherodactylus planirostris Pseudacris ocularis Pseudacris nigrita Hyla squirella Top to bottom: Eastern narrowmouthed toad; Southern leopard frog, one of the larger frogs of the swamp–only the pig frog is larger; barking treefrog. NPS/TODD PIERSON Amphibians tend to be highly sensitive to environmental changes, for that reason scientists often use them to determine the overall health of an area. True Frogs ___Pig frog ___Southern leopard frog Rana grylio Rana sphenocephala Aquatic Salamanders ___Everglades dwarf siren ___Greater siren ___Two-toed amphiuma Pseudobranchus axanthus belli Siren lacertina Amphiuma means Newts ___Peninsula newt Notophthalmus viridescens piaropicola * = invasive species Left: Cuban treefrog, an introduced species that has spread rapidly in Florida. These frogs disrupt the ecosystem because they eat smaller native tree frogs. The native green treefrog (right) can change to brown coloring, thereby confusing identification. However, the Cuban treefrog has extra large toe pads and much wartier skin than natives. It also has a skin fold starting from the eye towards the tympanum. NPS/Hardin Waddle, PhD Amphibian Checklist_FINAL.indd on HQ shareall, interp publications, 2,000 printed, 10/2011, stored at Oasis and WC
c c S f c c F u f c c W Great Florida Birding Trail... Birds of the Swamp... Be careful not to disturb nesting birds. Eggs or chicks left unattended are vulnerable to extreme temperatures or predators. Avoid disrupting the natural behavior of birds. Although an isolated disturbance may not be harmful to an individual’s survival, cumulative incidents from other visitors may be detrimental. Be extremely cautious and courteous when roadside birding; be sure to pull entirely off the road when observing wildlife and to always be aware of other motorists. EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA! Do Not Feed or Harass Wildlife se N ati o n a l e— t— P r o tec ss rv re Never feed wildlife. View wildlife with respect. All wildlife is wild and unpredictable. Stay a safe distance from any wild animal —15 feet is recommended. All plants and animals within national park areas are protected, it is illegal to collect any wildlife without special permits. How You Behave Can Save • • • • Pr • • • Birding Ethics Within the Preserve Loop Road, Kirby Storter Trail, Turner River Road, Wagonwheel Road, Birdon Road, and the Florida National Scenic Trail are ideal birding areas. See the Big Cypress National Preserve brochure for locations. p Recommended Birding Sites The thrill of watching a wild animal in its native surroundings is spectacular and awe inspiring. While visiting Big Cypress National Preserve, or any other natural area, remember: Watching wildlife the responsible way... Look for signs along roadways with this symbol that identify the trail. Learn more at: www.floridabirdingtrail.com f u u c c SP S F W IBISES, SPOONBILLS, & STORKS ___White ibis + c c c c ___Glossy ibis + u u u u ___Roseate spoonbill ? u u u u ___Wood stork + c c c c Loons ___Common loon WATERFOWL ___Fulvous whistling-duck r r r ___Black-bellied whistling-duck r r r r ___Snow goose r ___Canada goose r ___Egyptian goose r r r r ___Wood duck + u u u u ___Green-winged teal u u u ___Mottled duck + f f f f ___Mallard r ___Northern pintail r r r ___Blue-winged teal f r f f ___Northern shoveler r ___Gadwall ___American wigeon r ___Canvasback ___Redhead ___Ring-necked duck r r f The Big Cypress bird checklist has two primary functions: 1) to inform visitors of the presence and abundance of bird species in the Preserve and 2) to assist the wildlife team in updating the list through visitor observations. Therefore, if you see any unusual birds (those listed as rare or not listed at all), please advise Preserve staff at the visitor center and fill out a wildlife observation card, or write to: Big Cypress National Preserve Attention: Wildlife Biologist 33100 Tamiami Trail East Ochopee, FL 34141 Please be as specific as possible. Your reported observations are important and appreciated. u u c c f f c c c c c r f c f u The Great Florida Birding Trail is a collection of 445 sites throughout Florida selected for their excellent birdwatching or bird education opportunities. This 2,000-mile, self-guided highway trail is designed to conserve and enhance Florida’s bird habitat by promoting birdwatching activities, conservation education and economic opportunity. c c f f c c c c c r f c f u Bird watching is one of the Preserve’s principal attractions. Vegetation types such as cypress strands, hardwood hammocks, old-growth pinelands, sawgrass prairies, and mangrove forests support a wonderful array of bird diversity. This is illustrated by the 207 species of birds observed within the Preserve boundaries. r f c c c c c r f c u u SP VULTURES ___Turkey vulture + c ___Black vulture + c GREBES ___Pied-billed grebe + f ___Horned grebe PELICANS, CORMORANTS, ETC... ___American white pelican u ___Brown pelican u ___Magnificent frigatebird r ___Double-crested cormorant + c ___Anhinga + c HERONS, EGRETS, ETC... ___American bittern f ___Least bittern + f ___Great blue heron + c ___Great egret + c ___Snowy egret + c ___Little blue heron + c ___Tricolored heron + c ___Reddish egret r ___Cattle egret + f ___Green heron + c ___Black-crowned night-heron + f ___Yellow-crowned night-heron + u Big Cy E Big Cypress Birds Big Cypress National Preserve Florida National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Date: _______________ Time: ________ Location: _____________________________ Weather: ______________________________ Observer(s): _____________________________ KEY: r ve oy Spring (March-May) Summer (June-August) Fall (September-November) Winter (December-February) SEASON SP S F W INDEX c -- Common (present in the proper habitat and season) f -- Fairly common (often present in the proper habitat and season) u -- Uncommon (occasionally present in proper habitat and season) r -- Rare (seldom present in suitable habitat; few records) Each species was indexed according to its abundance in the Preserve, not on its likelihood of being observed. The species having no information in the index have never been doc
Date: _______________ Time: ________ Location: _____________________________ Weather: ______________________________ Observers: _____________________________ INDEX C -Common (Present in the proper habitat and season) U -Uncommon (occasionally present in proper habitat and season) R -Rare (seldom present in suitable habitat; few records) S-Stray (strays from local areas) X-Extirpated in the Preserve Each species was indexed according to its abundance in the Preserve, not on its likelihood of being observed. If you see any unusual butterflies please advise Preserve staff at the Visitor Center and fill out a wildlife observation card or write to: Big Cypress National Preserve, Attn: Wildlife Biologist, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141. Please be as specific as possible and remember that your reported observations are important and appreciated. Big Cypress Butterflies and food sources Top: Aster (eaten by Dainty Sulphurs and Pearl Crescents), Little Yellow butterfly, Wild Petunia (eaten by Malachites, White Peacocks, and common Buckeyes). Bottom: Painted Lady lands on a Blanket Flower, Thistle (eaten by Painted Ladies), Dainty Sulphur lands on a Spanish Needle—a food source for the butterfly along with Aster/Daisy plants. Cover page: Queen butterflies are one of the mimics of Monarch butterflies. Top row: Photos courtesy of Jan Shirey, NPS/VIP; Bill Perry; and Devon Cotsamire, Bottom row: Photos courtesy of Gustave Pellerin, Jan Shirey NPS/VIPs, and Ron Nuehring Cover page: Photo courtesy of Gustave Pellerin, NPS/VIP Pipevines (Aristolochia species) Paw-paws (Asimina species) Carrot/Parsley Family, wild and cultivated Rue Family, several Zanthoxylum species Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana) Laurel family, Swamp Bay, Red Bay Swamp Bay, Red Bay Caterpillar Food (Plant) R R R U C U C Virginia Pepper-grass Saltwort, Virginia Pepper-grass Index U C Clover, white sweet clover, other legumes Senna species Senna species Blackbead, Wild Tamarind Several small weedy legumes and vetches Partridge peas Senna and Chamaecrista species Aster/Daisy family, esp. Spanish Needles Scientific Name SWALLOWTAILS ___Polydamas Swallowtail ___Zebra Swallowtail ___Black Swallowtail ___Giant Swallowtail ___Eastern Tiger Swallowtail ___Spicebush Swallowtail ___Palamedes Swallowtail R C R C C C R U Battus polydamas Eurytides marcellus Papilio polyxenes Papilio cresphontes Papilio glaucus Papilio troilus Papilio palamedes WHITES AND SULPHURS Whites—Subfamily Pierinae ___Checkered White Pontia protodice ___Great Southern White Ascia monuste Sulphurs—Subfamily Coliadinae ___Orange Sulphur Colias eurytheme ___Cloudless Sulphur Phoebis sennae ___Orange-barred Sulphur Phoebis philea ___Large Orange Sulphur Phoebis agarithe ___Barred Yellow Eurema daira ___Little Yellow Eurema lisa ___Sleepy Orange Eurema nicippe ___Dainty Sulphur Nathalis iole Species list prepared by Elane Nuehring 6/8/2010 based on NABA Tri-County/Pinecrest Counts 2004-2009, NABA-Corkscrew Counts 1995-2007, Fakahatchee SP 1998-2008, Picayune SF 1998-2008, and Collier County butterfly list, www.butterfliesandmoths.org and reviews by Mark Salvato, Linda Cooper, and Marc Minno Like hands on activities? Try butterfly gardening, the art of designing a native plant garden according to butterflies you would like to attract in your area. Learn about your climate zone and selecting appropriate plants with the help of books, local gardening organizations, and websites dedicated to this rewarding pasttime. Join NABA (North American Butterfly Association), an organization uniting people interested in butterflies, and connect to a source of butterfly information and advocacy for researh and protection. Visit http://www.naba.org/ to learn more. Love Butterflies? The best time to see butterflies in the Preserve is in the late summer and autumn months from late August to mid-October. At this time there is a wide variety and abundance of butterflies. The winter months from November through February are more limited. In early spring the first generation of Gray Hairstreaks and swallowtails are first to appear. In late spring into summer butterfly numbers increase with new generatons. Within the Preserve check out the Fire Prairie Trail off of Turner River Road, Gator Hook Trail, Florida National Scenic Trail. Or take a stroll through the Oasis Visitor Center native plant garden and observe butterflies fluttering from plant to plant. N ati o n a l e— t— P r o tec ss rv re se Pr EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA! Do Not Feed or Harass Wildlife How You Behave Can Save • All wildlife is wild and unpredictable. Stay a safe distance from any wild animal —15 feet is recommended. • View wildlife with respect. • Never feed wildlife. • All plants and animals within national park areas are protected, it is illegal to collect any wildlife without special permits. The thrill of watching a wild animal in its native surroundings is spectacular and awe inspiring. While
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve Florida Reptiles of the Swamp... Probably the most noticeable animal within the Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp is the American alligator. This large reptile is commonly seen during the winter dry seasons when water is scarce. Other reptiles include snakes, crocodillians, skinks, geckos, turtles and lizards. Reptiles are animals that have scales and breath air. Many of the species classified in this group lay eggs. These animals are often misunderstood and feared. However, they play a vital role in the environment. For example, if it were not for alligators making “gator holes” many species that depend on water would perish during South Florida’s dry season. Watching wildlife the responsible way... The thrill of watching a wild animal in its native surroundings is spectacular and awe inspiring. While visiting Big Cypress National Preserve, or any other natural area, remember: • A  ll wildlife is wild and unpredictable. Stay a safe distance from any wild animal —15 feet is recommended. • View wildlife with respect. • Never feed wildlife. • All plants and animals within national park areas are protected, it is illegal to collect any wildlife without special permits. Compare the American crocodile photo (above) with the Amerian alligator photo (cover page). Can you discern the differences in appearance? CROCODILIANS Alligators ___American alligator Scientific Name Alligator Mississippiensis Also known as: Florida, Louisiana, or Mississppi alligator, gator Crocodiles ___American crocodile Crocodylus acutus Also known as: Caiman de la costa, cocodrilo de tumbes, Central American alligator, cocodrilo, lagarto How You Behave Can Save Do Not Feed or Harass Wildlife EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA! Big Cypress Reptiles Scientific Name SCALED REPTILES Legless Lizards ___Slender glass lizard ___Island glass lizard ___Eastern glass lizard Ophisaurus attenuatus Ophisaurus compressus Ophisaurus ventralis Snakes ___Burmese python* ___Florida scarlet snake ___Everglades racer ___Southern ringneck snake ___Eastern inidgo snake ___Corn snake ___Yellow rat snake ___Everglades rat snake ___Eastern mud snake ___Eastern hog-nosed snake ___Florida kingsnake ___Eastern kingsnake ___Scarlet kingsnake ___Eastern coachwhip ___Florida green water snake ___Mangrove salt marsh snake ___Brown water snake ___Rough green snake ___Striped crayfish snake ___South Florida swamp snake ___Florida brown snake ___Peninsula ribbon snake ___Common garter snake Python molorus bivittaus Cemophora coccinea coccinea Coluber constrictor paludicola Diadophis punctatus punctatus Drymarchon corais couperi Elaphe guttata guttata Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni Farancia abacura abacura Heterodon platirhinos Lampropeltis getula floridana Lampropeltis getula getula Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides Masticophis flagellum flagellum Nerodia floridana Nerodia clarkii compressicauda Nerodia taxispilota Opheodrys aestivus Regina alleni Seminatrix pygaea cyclas Storeria dekayi victa Thamnophis sauritus sackenii Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis Iguana iguana Elapids Venomous ___Eastern coral snake Micrurus fulvius fulvius Eumeces inexpectatus Scincella lateralis Vipers Venomous ___Dusky pigmy rattlesnake ___Eastern diamondback rattlesnake ___Florida cottomouth Sistrurus miliarius barbouri Crotalus adamanteus Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti Blind snakes ___Brahminy blind snake* Rhamphotyphlops braminus TURTLES, TORTOISES, TERRAPINS Snapping turtles ___Florida snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina osceola Small Turtles ___Striped mud turtle ___Florida mud turtle ___Common musk turtle Kinosternon baurii Kinosternon subrubrum steindachneri Sternotherus odoratus Box and water turtles ___Peninsula cooter ___Florida red-bellied turtle ___Florida chicken turtle ___Florida box turtle Pseudemys floridana peninsularis Pseudemys nelsoni Deirochelys reticularia chrysea Terrapene carolina bauri Tortoises ___Gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus Softshelled Turtles ___ Florida softshell turtle Apalone ferox LIZARDS Geckos ___Indo-Pacific gecko* ___Mediterranean gecko* ___Cosmopolitan house gecko* Hemidactylus garnotii Hemidactylus turcicus turcicus Hemidactylus mabouia Anoles ___Green anole ___Brown anole* Anolis carolinensis Anolis sagrei Iguanas ___Green iguana* Skinks ___Southeastern five-lined skink ___Ground skink reptile name* = introduced species Scientific Name Reptiles of Big Cypress... Left to right: Peninsula cooter (Pseudemys floridana peninsularis); Corn snake (Elaphe guttata guttata);Scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides); Eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius fulvius). Reptile Checklist_FINAL.indd on HQ shareall, interp publications, 2,000 printed, 10/2011, stored at Oasis and WC
Big Cypress American Alligator National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve NPS/Niki Butcher The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is an amazing reptile that has remained unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. The alligator is the symbol of wildlife and of untouched lands in the Southeastern United States. The early Spanish settlers to South Florida were amazed by the largest lizard they had ever seen, calling it “el legarto” meaning “the lizard.” The term has evolved to alligator, but the feeling is still the same. C rocodillians have survived for millions of years and their species has changed relatively little over time other than in overall length. As living fossils passed down from prehistoric times, these relics from the past are incredible for their tenacity. They are the planet’s largest living reptiles. Part of their success can be explained by their anatomy. Armed with sharp conical teeth, muscular tails and tough, scaly skin, they are extremely efficient predators. A Stealthy Hunter Known for their strong bite, the American alligator can exert massive pressure per bite, inflicting one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom. The jaws, however, are not the only weapon in the alligator’s arsenal. Like other nocturnal animals such as owls, the eyesight of an alligator is exceptional at night. Like cats, the alligator has a thin layer of special reflecting tissue behind each retina called a tapetum lucidum. This tissue acts like a mirror to concentrate all available light during the darkest of nights. It also causes the eyes to reflect when caught in a flashlight beam. A secondary set of eyelids, known as the nictitating Alligator or Crocodile? • Alligators have a broader snout than a crocodile. • The bottom teeth of the alligator are mostly hidden when the mouth is closed. The crocodile’s teeth are always visible. • Alligators tend to be grayish-black in color, but crocodiles have a grayish-green appearance. membrane, act as underwater goggles, allowing the alligator to see underwater. Alligators can stay underwater for much longer than humans. A typical dive might last 10-20 minutes. In a pinch an alligator can stay submerged for up to two hours if it is at rest. And, in very cold water, an alligator can last up to eight hours submerged. What’s for Dinner? Alligators are carnivorous. Their very strong jaws can crack a turtle shell. They eat snails, invertabrates, fish, birds, frogs, and other mammals that come to the water’s edge such as raccoons, otters, white tail deer, and even small black bears. They use their sharp teeth to seize and hold their prey. Smaller prey is swallowed whole, and larger prey is ripped into smaller, more manageable pieces. If it is very large, alligators take a bite, and spin on the long axis of their bodies to tear off smaller more easily swallowed pieces. Despite being a top predator, the alligator may only feed 1520 times per year with the majority of feeding taking place during the spring months. • Crocodiles have a salt excreting gland in their mouths making them comfortable in saltwater. The alligator lacks these glands, and is therefore found more often in freshwater. • In the US the alligator is much more common and is usually larger than the crocodile. Habitat Out of the 11 species of crocodilians found throughout the world, the American alligator inhabits the coldest regions. The geologic flatness of Florida provides the alligator with ample sunshine throughout the day, which is necessary for the cold-blooded creature to survive. The Florida ecosystem also provides many millions of gallons of freshwater daily, which allows for easy hunting. The clear water helps the alligator to see and selectively choose the best prey from a distance. The Big Cypress Swamp is especially attractive to the alligator because of its protected status. There are over 729,000 wild acres, which offer the alligator abundant habitat to live and hunt with limited human interaction. This ecosystem allows the alligator to live between 35-60 years old. New Family Most alligators become sexually mature before reaching seven feet in length, although females can reach maturity at six feet. It may take 10–15 years for a female to reach this length and a male 8–12 years. Courtship begins in early April, and mating occurs in May or June. In late June or early July females deposit an average of 32-50 eggs into a mounded nest that she builds out of soil and vegetation. The eggs incubate and hatch after approximately 60-65 days, which typically occurs in late August or early September. Sex of the young is determined during the first three weeks of incubation. Warmer temperatures inside the nest will produce males, while eggs at cooler temperatures will become females. Unlike almost all other types of reptiles, the female alligator will raise her young for up to three years after birth. Eighty percent of all newborn allig
Big Cypress National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve What’s the Big Black Bird? Ever wondered, “Is that a cormorant or anhinga? These birds are often confused for each other at first glance due to their similar appearance. Both birds are primarily black and approximately the same size. The cormorant is 33 inches long with a 52 inch wingspan; the anhinga is 34 inches long with a 48 inch wingspan. Both feed by gracefully diving below the surface for fish, but look closer and you’ll see that the two birds are very different. T hirty-seven different species of cormorants exist in the world, six occur in North America, but only the Double-crested lives in Big Cypress. Double-crested cormorants look for realty in a variety of habitats, shopping for open water from swamps to the ocean. Take a look at one here, and then try and find one back home. Just like many of us like to migrate south to escape cold winters, many of these cormorants also spend summers in the north and winters in the south. Between their different homes, and migration in between, Double-crested cormorants can be found in every state at some point during the year. Four different darter species exist worldwide and only the anhinga, pronounced an-hing-GA, makes its home in the Southeastern United States. The anhinga is a darter which is a tropical waterbird with a long thin neck and thin pointed bill. Typically anhingas live in freshwater wetlands, but can also survive in brackish and saltwater habitats. Cormorants and anhingas both make Big Cypress National Preserve home year-round. Look for these intriguing residents perched or swimming in the Preserve’s freshwater canals and learn how to distinguish one from its look-a-like. Who’s making an appearance today? In the field, when not posing side-by-side, it can be a challenge to tell them apart. With these helpful hints, can you detect which bird you are looking at? Bill Shape: Both birds have relatively thin, long bills. Focus your binoculars on the bill’s tip. The cormorant’s bill is hooked at the tip. The anhinga’s bill comes to a sharp point. If you’re still not sure: Take a look at the neck. It’s harder to see when not posing side-by-side, but the anhinga’s neck is longer and skinnier than the cormorants. Cormorant (left) Phalacrocorax auritus and anhinga (right) Anhinga anhinga. More than just a big black bird... Invader Patrol: Unfortunately, non-native fish such as walking catfish and oscars have invaded Big Cypress Swamp. The anhingas and cormorants eat many of these fish, helping reduce these invasive populations. Environmental Detectors: A healthy number of cormorants and anhingas indicates a healthy environment. In the 1960s, cormorant populations declined significantly due to DDT and other contaminants, but have recovered. Fishing Frenzy Eating small fish, cormorants and anhingas plunge below the surface for a tasty meal. However, just like you may argue with your fishing buddy which jig is best, cormorants and anhingas have very different fishing techniques. The anhinga makes use of another benefit of outstretched wings, thermoregulation. Cormorants have a layer of feathers that act as a warm blanket. Anhingas lack these insulating feathers and often stay outstretched to soak in the sun’s heat. Propelling themselves underwater with their webbed feet, cormorants grab their meal with their bill in as deep as 60 feet of water! Coming to the surface they swallow the fish head first. Watch their throat as their meal travels down the long neck with a few gulps. While Swimming Look! There’s a snake in the water! Or is it an anhinga? Anhingas are also called snakebirds because of their swimming style. When swimming, only their neck and head stay above the water and their body sinks below the surface. With a quick glance, their long, skinny neck might look like a swimming snake. Cormorants, on the other hand, float on the water’s surface like a duck. Anhingas also fish underwater, but spear their fish. They retract their neck into an “S” shape and thrust it forward like a spear. Their long, sharp bill can pierce fish. Once the fish is speared, the anhinga comes to land and works the fish off its bill by slapping it around and finally tosses the fish into the air swallowing it head first. Dinner is served. Strike a Pose! Take a stroll down a Big Cypress boardwalk and you might find a bird perching on a branch wings spread wide open. It seems as though it is posing for you to take the perfect picture. But what is it really doing? Photo Courtesy of Gustav Pellerin, NPS/VIP Male anhinga (left) and female anhinga (right) Did you know... You can easily determine the gender of anhingas. Typically you cannot tell the gender of diving and wading birds just by coloration. That’s not the case for anhingas! The male has a black neck and head; the female has a golden brown neck and head. Most aquatic birds have natural oils on their feathers. The o
Big Cypress National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve Photo Courtesy of Ralph Arwood Going Batty in Big Cypress Photo courtesy of Ralph Arwood, NPS/VIP Many visitors to Big Cypress search for migratory birds, but overlook beneficial flying mammals, bats, as they are harder to spot primarily flying in the night sky. Bats have forelimbs that function like wings, making them the only mammal capable of flight. Other mammals, such as flying squirrels can glide for limited distances. W hat mammal swims through the air? Bats do! Bats are mammals in the order Chiroptera. The word Chiroptera is a Greek word meaning “hand wing.” The structure of the bat’s open “hand wing” is very similar to an outspread human hand, with a membrane between the fingers that also stretches between hand and body. With these wings, bats defy the norm by swimming through the air, unlike birds which must flap their wings up and down. Bat pups are born feet first (unique among mammals) in the spring, and can fly within six to eight weeks. Most bats have one pup per year, sometimes two. Beneficial Bats World-wide there are nearly 1,000 species of bats and most of these are highly beneficial. Bats not only feed on the notorious mosquitos that afflict Big Cypress visitors, but they also control many agricultural pests. The bats that call the Preserve home feed entirely on insects. A single bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in one night. In the tropics, fruit and nectar feeding bats play a vital role in the survival and regrowth of the rain forests. Fruit-eating bats spread seeds as they fly and digest their food. Nectar feeding bats pollinate many valuable plants such as bananas, balsa wood, agave and more. Threats to survival Bats are disappearing at an alarming rate and their greatest threat is us. The famous Carlsbad Caverns National Park population, estimated to contain 8.7 million in 1936, had fallen as low as 218,000 by 1973. Florida bat roositing sites are threatened by increasing development. Ironically, the species is very important for the control of insect pests but are disappearing at an alarming decline due to pesticide poisoning and intentional habitat destruction. Human disturbance and vandalism of key roosting sites in caves are likely the single most serious causes of decline. Bats lose roosting habitat as old buildings are destroyed. They move into new buildings and are eradicated as pests. Grossly exaggerated media stories about rabies have led to the intentional destruction of large colonies. Humans have even been known to set fires in caves destroying thousands of roosting bats. Bat Facts? • There are 13 species of bats in Florida, all insectivores. • Forty percent of bats in the U.S. are endangered, threatened, or species of special concern. There are about 1,000 species of bats worldwide. • Bats can live up to 20 years. • The fastest recorded bat speed is a big brown bat flying at 40mph. • Their wing beats may be as rapid as 20 per second. • The tiniest bat is the size of a bumble bee. • Bats fly with their mouths open to use echolocation. Here in South Florida, the Florida Mastiff bat has not been seen in over twenty years. The last Florida Mastiff bat sighting was thought to be in 1978, but in 1989 the bat was found once again roosting in a South Florida office building, pregnant and dangerously dehydrated. The bat was rehabilitated but escaped. It is currently listed as an endangered species in Florida. Helping Florida’s Bats You can help Florida’s bats by learning more about them and sharing bat information with others. One of the most cost-effective ways to help bats is through protecting roosts, public education, and provision of “bat-friendly” bridge designs and other artificial roosts. Photo courtesy of Ralph Arwood, NPS/VIP Bat boxes are another form of artificial roost that are highly successful. The bat box (pictured below) is an artificial bat house made of wood or plastic and if mounted correctly can become home to a bat colony. A bat box is a great way to conserve bats and to control insects in the yard. For more information on how to build a bat box, visit the Florida Bat Conservancy’s website. Shedding Light on Bat Myths There are many myths and misconceptions regarding bats. Many tales and movies have led people to fear them. Bats, however, are beneficial creatures. called echolocation. Bats don’t fly into or build nests in your hair, and they rarely attack people. Despite most bat photographs depicting a snarling animal, they actually are quite timid, and are snarling in self-defense when disturbed. A very small percentage of bats contract rabies. However, just like any other mammal, usually once a bat gets rabies, it dies before spreading the virus. Never handle or play with any wild animals, including bats. If you find a bat that you believe to be injured or hurt, do not touch it, but instead contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Big Cypress Florida Panther National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve NPS/RALPH ARWOOD The Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi) is the state animal of Florida, being voted as such by the school children of the state in 1987. The panther was chosen over other animals such as the alligator, manatee, white-tailed deer, and the black bear as the best representative of Florida fauna. The panther is without a doubt the most formidable predator in Florida. Habitat loss has made the panther one of the most endangered animals in North America. T he Florida panther has embodied the natural landscape of Florida for many thousands of years. An elusive creature that is seldom seen by human eyes, the panther stalks the sawgrass prairies and pinelands of the Big Cypress Swamp. Silently ambushing its prey, the panther is a master of the swamp, helping to efficiently keep the wild game populations healthy. Home in the Swamp It is no secret to cat owners that felines dislike water yet here in Big Cypress, water, the most abundant resource, is a pivotal aspect of the panther’s life. Where most other cats would starve based on their fear of water, the panther has adapted to life around our watery world. Inhabiting higher and drier pinelands and hardwood hammocks, the panther regularly interacts with all aspects of the swamp. It will make dens in the dense saw palmetto, lie in wait in the sawgrass prairies, forge through the wet cypress strands, and spend lazy days in the shade of the hardwood hammocks. Food Sources While there is an abundance of aquatic life within the Big Cypress Swamp, the panther prefers a more terrestrial meal. The white-tailed deer of South Florida make up the main diet of the panther, but it will also hunt for wild hog, raccoons, rabbits, armadillos, and birds. While it may feed on these smaller animals, the larger the prey that it feeds on, the healthier the panther will be. For example a panther would need to feed on ten raccoons to equal the nourishment from one deer. In order to maintain proper health the panther must kill one deer per week on average. The panther will lie in wait, or patiently stalk, waiting for the right moment to pounce out of its hiding spot and seize its prey. Using retractable razor sharp claws to hold its prey, it will usually bite the back of the neck, and in one quick movement break the neck. These tawny brown colored animals are most active at dawn and dusk, factors that enhance camouflage among the sawgrass prairies in the dim light. Fun Panther Facts • The panther is a sub-species of the cougar and is also known as the puma, mountain lion, catamount, or painter. • The panther once roamed from Texas to Florida to the northern part of Tennessee. • Panthers can live to be 10 years of age or older. • Panthers do not normally spend much time in trees, although many pictures depict them this way. They are merely trying to escape the scientists who are tracking them. • The panther is the only sub-species of the cougar which can be found east of the Mississippi River. Mating and Reproduction A female panther will reach the age of sexual maturity by the time she is two and a half years of age, while the male is usually three years. The females will signal they are ready for copulation by scent, or by caterwauling, a yowl that is so loud and shrill that many people mistake the scream for that of a human woman. This has earned the panther the name of the swamp screamer. The female will remain pregnant for around three months and have a litter of one to three kittens. The kittens are born with many spots on their coats, which are used as camouflage while bedding in their den of saw palmetto. The mother needs to regularly leave the den to hunt for the extra food needed for her young, so the kittens must be safe and hiding maintains this security. By the time the kittens are two months old they will begin traveling out with the mother to learn how to hunt. While they are born with the instinct to chase prey, the proper methods of hunting must be learned. Decline of a Population During the later part of the 1800s, many hunters sought out the panther due to the belief panthers were taking many farmers’ livestock. Florida has always been a major producer of the country’s cattle, therefore the panthers were hunted in record numbers in order to protect these livestock. To encourage the elimination of the panther, a $5 bounty was placed on all panthers, which led to a widespread loss of panthers across the state. This occurence coupled with a major habitat loss brought the panthers to the brink of extinction. At one point the estimated number of panthers in the wild was down to around 30. This was also a major problem because it caused record numbers of the panthers to inbreed. The inbreeding caused many genetic deficiencies such as cowlicks, bent tails, and sterility. Their entire future was in serious jeopardy. Panther Deaths and
Big Cypress Manatees National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve NPS/© Gary Bremen The Florida manatee is a gentle giant of coastal Florida, lumbering in warm shallow waters during the dry winter months, and reaching vast distances in the Gulf of Mexico during the warmer summer months. Designated as the Florida state marine mammal many people hope to catch a glimpse of one, but their way of life is often veiled in mystery and legend. In seaman’s lore, they were often mistaken for mythic mermaids. T he manatee is a large aquatic mammal that is found in saltwater environments around the state. They are described as pudgy grey animals with a rounded nose, flippers, and a paddle-like tail, but they are surprisingly agile as they have been viewed somersaulting and playing in the water. Manatees are covered in an aquatic version of fur known as pelage, a substance thought to help prevent the growth of algae that afflicts the slow moving organisms in salt water environments. They are quite large growing up to 15 feet long. The average size manatee is approximately seven to nine feet in length, and may weigh up to 1,800 lbs! Females tend to be the larger of the species with an average female weighing 1,000 lbs, and males averaging 750 lbs. There are four species of manatee found throughout the world; the West Indian or Florida manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the West African manatee, and the Chinese dugong. These creatures have intrigued humans for centuries. They have provided many shipwrecked sailors with a food source and became known as a delectable delicacy, which led to the extinction of one of the world’s manatee species, the Stellar sea cow The Stellar sea cow was the largest type of manatee ever known, and only found off an island in the Northern Pacific Ocean. It was first discovered in the mid 1700s by a shipwrecked sailor and naturalist known as Georg Stellar, but within 27 years of its discovery it had been hunted to extinction. History Throughout history the manatee has been viewed in different ways. Sailors in the days gone by would notice these large mammals swimming near the surface of the water. You could imagine that after months at sea without seeing any women many sailors would tend to believe these majestic creatures could be mermaids beckoning to them, sending messages of love and enticement. Manatees belong to the order of Sirenian, which is derived from the ancient Greek myth, The Odyssey, in which siren temptresses seduced sailors to shore in order to shipwreck them onto their island. Today many people refer to the manatee as a sea cow because it appears to be a large cow-like sea creature feeding on various types of plants, much like cows grazing in the fields. Did You Know? In many cases, boat inflicted injuiries occur because manatees cannot hear boats moving towards them—not because manatees are slow moving. The sound frequency emitted by the motor is outside the hearing range of the manatee. Studies have shown that increasing the frequency of sound emitted by boats may help warn the manatees of imposing danger. Future boats may be equipped with a warning system that could decrease the number of manatee accidents. Feeding Manatees are herbivores, meaning they eat only vegetation and grasses.They have a highly varied choice of grasses they consume; manatee grass, turtle grass, sea grass, shoal grass, algae, mangrove leaves, and mangrove seeds just to name a few. It is a good thing they like to eat so many vegetables because they need to consume around 10-15 percent of their body weight every single day, which equates to 150300 pounds of food that a manatee could eat per day. Now that’s an appetite! Due to such a massive need to eat, manatees may need to travel vast distances in search of food, which is usually found in more shallow and warmer waters. It can sometimes be difficult to find the amount of food necessary in the cooler winter months and the manatees need to travel inland in search of warmer waters. Reproduction Female manatees are typically solitary. While many other mammals pair up and mate with each other for life, the female manatee only meets up with males in order to reproduce. Up to 12 males at a single time may pursue a female for several weeks in the hopes of mating with her. If any of the males succeed, the female will then spend the 12-14 months of gestation alone. Each pregnancy yields one calf, which the mother nurses on milk, just like other mammals. She spends a few years with her calf teaching it how to survive; learning to swim, proper breathing techniques, which grasses to eat, and more. A single female may only reproduce a few times during her lifetime. Human Interaction Manatees are just as curious about humans as we are about them. In many documented cases manatees have surfaced near boats in what seems like an attempt to investigate humans. This curiosity has led to many unfortunate interactions between m
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress Big Cypress National Preserve Alien Invaders: Burmese Pythons The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is internationally classified as a “threatened species” due to habitat depletion, demand as exotic pets, and hunting for their skins for fashion and flesh for food. Their introduction into Florida habitats has labeled them as an “exotic invasive species.” Many federal and state agencies are working to remove these large reptiles from ecosystems within the state to try to outpace the reproduction of these snakes in the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. B urmese pythons originate from Southeast Asia and are one of the largest growing snakes in the world. Pythons are internationally listed as threatened mostly due to huge sections of their habitat in Asia being destroyed. The Burmese pythons that are now currently in the wild throughout South Florida were either released by pet owners who could no longer care for their snakes when they got too large or inadvertently or intentially released when hurricanes blew through South Florida. Burmese pythons are now living and reproducing rapidly within South Florida since they have no natural predators in North America and are highly adaptable . Is it a Python? Pythons can become over 20 feet in length in their native land, but are typically between six to ten feet living as expatriots in South Florida with the largest, 16 feet, captured in the Everglades. At this length they still are generally larger than any of the native snakes. When small, pythons are frequently confused with native snakes. They are tan in color with dark giraffe-like blotch markings. Pythons can be differentiated by a dark arrowhead shaped blotch on the back of their head. Squeeze to Eat Pythons are an ambush predator and use their unique skin markings as camouflage to surprise their prey. They grab onto their prey with a mouth full of sharp, backward shaped teeth to hold on while the snake suffocates it. Pythons are large constrictors meaning that they coil around their prey and squeeze until the animal faints from lack of oxygen. Like all reptiles, pythons need to be a certain temperature (80–90º F) to digest their food. Pythons typically eat smaller prey like birds, other snakes, and small mammals. However, pythons have been known to eat larger prey such as goats, alligators, deer, or whatever they can catch. Reproduction & Incubation Burmese pythons breed in the early spring after a period of brumation—a behavior like hibernation, but biologically different as it is used to survive a winter period and prepare Python Facts • In Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” an Indian python named “Kaa” hypnotizes its prey before eating it. Pythons that are able to hypnotize prey do not exist. • An estimated 112,000 pythons have been exported to Florida since 1990. • Burmese pythons are nonvemonous • The only humans that have been harmed by Burmese pythons have been python owners and their families. • From 2000-2009, 1,334 pythons were captured and removed from Everglades National Park. the reproductive organs for mating. Females will then lay clutches which average between 12-36 eggs in March or April. The mother will remain with the eggs until they hatch. To incubate her eggs, she will wrap around them and twitch her muscles in such a way as to raise the ambient air temperature around the eggs by several degrees. When ready, the hatchlings use their egg tooth to cut their way out of the eggs. Once the hatchlings are out of the eggs, there is no further maternal care. Native versus Exotic A native species of plant, animal, or insect is one that was naturally occurring in Florida prior to the year 1500. An exotic species is one that has been introduced by humans to an ecosystem from somewhere else. Over 400 species of fish and wildlife and 1,180 species of plants have been documented and introduced to Florida and as many as 40 exotic agricultural insects arrive each month. Many of these species were introduced by pets escaping or being released, birds spreading the seeds of plants used for landscaping, or food being brought from other places. Typically introduced species don’t survive in a new ecosystem. Natural occurrences such as predators, flooding, hurricanes, occasional freezes, and wildfires keep invasives from becoming established. The species that do survive are adapted for local conditions and have no natural predators to keep the population size in check within the new ecosystem. These exotic species then become invasive species and begin to take over that habitat. The Economy of Pythons Burmese pythons are a top seller within the exotic pet trade. Many people own pythons because of their unique skin markings and the ease in which an untrained individual can handle them. They have been used in many TV shows, movies, and music videos throughout the world. In Asia, they are hunted for their meat and skins to s
Big Cypress The Red-cockaded Woodpecker National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve Photo courtesy of Ralph Arwood, NPS/VIP The endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a “keystone” species that reflects the health of its southern forest home, the same home vital to deer, turkey, panthers and people. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker struggles to find older pines in territories not fragmented by development. The Slash pine (Pinus elliottii) ecosystem in which it thrives has been reduced by 97 percent, and many populations of the woodpecker continue to decline. Big Cypress National Preserve contains many healthy stands of Slash pines that also support this unique bird. W hat does “home” mean to you? For the Redcockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), the ideal home is in an old longleaf pine tree that is between 64 to 149 years of age! Old living pines desired by the woodpeckers have thinner sapwood and more heartwood than other pines. Surveys in 1979 and 1980 revealed Big Cypress National Preserve supports a population of Redcockaded Woodpeckers, a federally-listed endangered species. Pine forests found within the Preserve constitute an ideal roosting and nesting area for the birds. These forests have little understory growth, primarily due to fires and seasonal flooding. Building a Home Did you know that the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is the only North American woodpecker that roosts and excavates its nest in living trees? The woodpecker builds its home or cavity by carving out a hole with its bill like a construction worker using a jackhammer to break up cement. Holes drilled into the pine are constructed at an upward angle to prevent rain from entering the chamber. The birds remove bark from around their cavity to make it smooth and encourage resin wells from the sap of the tree to form around the hole. The slippery sap from the resin wells help keep out predators or unwanted neighbors, such as rat snakes. Cavities can be drilled in a matter of months, but one to three years is more typical. Preferring open areas, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers will abandon their homes if bushy vegetation reaches 15 feet or higher near the tree. Starting a New Family Typically a Red-cockaded Woodpecker can begin breeding at one year of age. The best nesting success rates occur from late April through June. Clutch size is between two to four eggs. Incubation takes 10-11 days. Young woodpeckers fledge in 28-29 days and are dependent on their family for survival until they are two to five months old. Frequently within the year the young female birds, also known as “floaters,” fledge or leave the nest. “Floaters” look to start their own families by joining a Red-cockaded Woodpecker group searching for a female “floater” to complete a breeding pair. Red-cockaded Woodpecker Identification •R  elatively slender, long-tailed, and small-billed. • Adult length 8.5”, wingspan 14”, weight 1.5oz (44 g). Males slightly bigger. •W  hite cheek patches, black cap and neck, black and white barred back wings. • Males have a few red feathers above and behind the eyes, the “cockade.” Red is covered with black feathers so not readily seen. Females do not have any red on them • Immature males have a red “patch” in the center of their black crown on heads. What is on the Food Menu? Red-cockaded Woodpeckers feed on what they can find by picking away at the bark on trees or by capturing flying insects. The woodpeckers also feed on vegetation. Specials that could be featured on the Red-cockaded Woodpecker menu include larvae, beetles, ants, roaches, and spiders. Male Red-cockaded Woodpeckers often feed near tree tops while females eat lower on the trees. Perhaps this feeding in different areas of the tree helps prevent the breed from being in competition with one another when food sources are low. Survival The areas where Red-cockaded Woodpeckers live are threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and lack of fire or infrequent fire that maintains habitat quality in Florida. Although South Florida is not a designated recovery population for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, the area contains significant support populations for recovery of the species in the southeast. Eighty-one percent of South Florida’s Red-cockaded woodpecker colonies have successfully produced young. Help for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker can be provided. One way is by continuing to support survey projects conducted for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Also providing snags can be important. Snags are trees that are decaying or dead. Providing snags will give other woodpeckers a place to live so they won’t be competing against the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers for live trees. In addition to saving snags, conserving “starts” is another way to support the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. “Starts” are incomplete holes or cavities in a tree. These incomplete homes may have been started by a woodpecker or created artificially with the idea it might become a woodpecker dw
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress Big Cypress National Preserve NPS/JAN SHIREY Epiphytes The epiphytes of South Florida leave the visitor with a sense of beauty and wonder. They help to create the idyllic landscape representative of the Big Cypress Swamp. They also evoke a sense of wonder in that they grow in ways that seem so foreign to most. With the protection that Big Cypress National Preserve affords, there is little doubt that these epiphytes will continue to impress for many years to come. E piphytes are some of the most distinctive plants in the world, yet most people are not familiar with their natural beauty. Many are aware of parasites, which require a host to live, while extracting nutrients from that host. Epiphytes are similar in that they need a host to survive, but take nothing from the host. Derivative of a Latin term meaning “upon plants,” epiphytes can be found on many native trees. In South Florida, there are many examples of epiphytic plants that can be found throughout Big Cypress National Preserve. Airplants The most visible of all epiphytes in South Florida are the air plants, or bromeliads. Looking like bird nests in the trees, bromeliads are unique in the way they grow. Most plant root systems have evolved to extract water and nutrients from the ground, but air plants do not. The root structure of an air plant is designed to form an anchor point to attach itself to a tree. Since the roots do not extract water, air plants collect water in a holding “tank” in the center of the plant. The shape of the leaves direct all water to this reservoir. Dead insects and other detritus also gather in this area, allowing nutrients to leach into the water, aiding the growth of the airplant. The pineapple is a well known bromeliad; however, it grows on the ground instead of on trees. Feeding on Lightning Airplants also gather nutrients from a very unique source— lightning. South Florida has the highest percentage of cloud to ground lightning strikes than anywhere else in the country. The heat released from a ground lightning strike is hotter than the sun and stimulates a chemical process that creates nitrogen oxides. When dissolved in water, the nitrogen oxides allows airplants to extract the nitrogen. Orchids Some of the most well-known and ornate epiphytes in South Florida are orchids. Of the 22,000 species of orchid found worldwide, 36 species exist at Big Cypress. Of those, 13 species are epiphytic (23 are terrestrial), and each has a unique growing style. For example, the cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) has evolved a massive spongy Anatomy of an Airplant Lacking roots, air plants rely on collecting rain water through their cup shaped leaves and storing it in a central resevoir. The plant provides a habitat for small animals such as frogs and insects that seek shelter, nutrients, and water within the plant. Southern leopard frog Water base, where its roots attach to the host; in this spongy region, water can be stored for later during the dry season. Similarly, the ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza lendenii) grows stout thick roots, which draw moisture directly out of the atmosphere as needed by the plant. These two distinct growing styles showcase the amazing ways in which orchids have adapted to living in the swampy surroundings. Hungry Plants Many orchids feed on nutrients in much the same way. They extract nutrients from the decaying matter that falls into their source of water. Many ghost orchids can be found on downed or dead trees, where the orchid can gather enough nutrients from the rotting organic matter. In some extreme cases, orchids use the droppings of passing birds to fertilize the plant and ensure a healthy growing season. Strangler Figs The strangler fig is one of the most haunting and beautiful plants in the Big Cypress swamp. Its ability to grow around the host tree has given it the name, “strangler,” but also it is the only epiphyte that will affect the host in which it grows. The strangler fig grows very slowly as it matures, extracting water and nutrients directly from the atmosphere. As the plant gets larger, it may grow both up and down the trunk of the host tree. Eventually, the strangler fig will reach the ground at which point the growth cycle speeds up greatly. The strangler fig will encircle the roots of the host tree and eventually kill it. As the host tree rots away, a hollow void is left with the strangler fig standing alone. These eerie plants add a sense of wonder while visiting the Big Cypress swamp. Extra Protein Each of the 750 fig tree species found throughout the world are pollinated by a wasp specific to each fig. A chemical smell attracts the female wasp to the fruit of the fig tree. While inside the fruit, the wasp lays her eggs, where they hatch. When the wasps reach maturity, the males and females mate, and the females fly out in search of another fig to lay her eggs. As the females fly out they are coated in
Big Cypress National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve Orchids Orchids invoke a sense of wonder in many people due to their distinctive beauty, great diversity and rarity. With around 30,000 known species, orchids constitute the largest family of flowering plants on earth. Not only are they extremely diverse, but they are widespread and can be found around the world in environments ranging from rainforests to desert oases to tundra above the Arctic Circle. Here in Big Cypress National Preserve, 36 species of orchids can be found. Some of these are epiphytic, meaning they live on trees or other plants but are not parasitic. While others are terrestrial growing from the ground. D uring the dry season visitors frequently pass by rare and beautiful orchids without a second glance. For much of the year when the plants are not flowering they are nondescript, resembling a small cluster of palm or grass leaves. But one way to tell them apart from other plants is by their leaves. With parallel veins, the leaves of the orchid are quite variable in size and shape, some being small and round while others are slender and elongated. The flowers have three sepals, and three petals, one of which is modified into a lip that serves as a landing platform for pollinating insects or birds. It guides the insect towards the nectar, which is strategically located to ensure that the pollinator brushes against the pollen as it feeds. Orchids adapted for wind, rain, insect, bee, wasp, hummingbird, and many other types of pollination exist. Therefore, the diversity in floral forms in the orchid is outstanding. Orchid flowers range from being green and tiny (less than three millimeters across) to multi-colored and large. —Clamshell orchid —Dingy-flowered star orchid (left) —Leafy vanilla orchid —Florida dollar orchid —Florida butterfly orchid (center) —Lace-lip ladies orchid —Habeneria —Snowy orchid —Florida malaxis orchid —Grass pink orchid (right) Cowhorn Orchids The endangered cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) can be found in the hardwood hammocks and open cypress swamps of Big Cypress (pictured top of page on left). In the spring, the plant produces an impressive cluster of flowers spattered with shades of red Photos courtesy of PJ Stevko Common Orchids of Big Cypress Epiphytic or Terrestrial The two main growth patterns for orchids are epiphytic, growing in trees or other hosts, and terrestrial, growing from the ground. Epiphytic organisms were once confused with parasitic organisms, in the sense that both types of organisms require a host to survive. The main difference is that epiphytes do not take anything away from its host; it uses the host soley for stability rooting to it like an anchor. Most epiphytic orchids have stems which are swollen at the base and store water in this bulbous region. Terrestrial orchids utilize their roots in the same fashion as other plants, drawing water from the surrounding soil. and yellow. In order to attract bees that are its pollinator, the flowers have evolved to resemble a swarm of bees. The actual bee flies into the flowers either to fight with what it believes to be a rival swarm of bees, or to mate with what appears to be bees of its own kind. In doing this, the bee becomes covered in pollen, therefore pollinating the next orchid when it starts the process over again. The cowhorn orchid requires cross-pollination to produce seeds and fruit meaning that a cowhorn orchid must receive pollen from another cowhorn orchid in order to reproduce. The problem is that the cowhorn orchid has become so rare in Big Cypress that cross pollination is not reliable. Dr. Jim Burch, the preserve’s botanist, has begun to manually pollinate many of the known cowhorn orchids using small forceps in an effort to conserve the species. Ghost Orchids One of the most unusual orchids found anywhere in the world, the ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza lindenii) has become a symbol of the South Florida landscape. Its haunting white color and long curling spikes that seem to float in midair are like a ghost of bygone eras. The ghost orchid is a night moth pollinated specimen that blooms both during the day and at night. The long whispy petals attract the moths in the dead of night and provide nectar to the hovering pollinator. The moth will then seek out another ghost orchid and tranfer the pollen from one to another, thereby aiding in reproduction. The most conspicuous feature of this orchid is the system of roots, which radiate from a central hub and creep tightly both up and down the host tree’s bark. These orchids grow as easily on the smooth bark of a Royal Palm as the rough bark of the cypress trees of the swamps. The ghost orchid is an indicator for the overall health of the Big Cypress swamp due to its need of a specialized habitat. It requires a vast pool of genetic diversity, and high humidity to thrive. Habitat destruction, as well as changing hydrologic cycles ha

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