My Backyard…and a little out front

Remember when we said, way back at the beginning, that you may not have to venture farther than your own Central Florida back yard to experience “nature”.  Well, here are some species of plants and animals I found inhabiting my own backyard that you may have seen or could be seeing.

Starting with the plants:

The debate is on whether these first two plant species are weeds or wildflowers.  A common saying is that a weed is simply a plant growing where it’s not wanted.  I’m easy, but I’ll let others decide for themselves.

The first is Blue Toadflax (Linaria canadensis).  This plant has been an early growing season visitor to my yard for years.

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The second is Tasselflower (Emilia fosbergii).  Unlike Toadflax, this plant is listed as having been introduced into the United States.  Also, unlike Toadflax, this plant may flower all year long as opposed to only the winter and spring for Toadflax.

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My neighbors have a thriving cypress tree in their backyard. A consequence is that I have to be very careful with the lawnmower in my adjoining backyard or I may hit one of many cypress knees.

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My neighbors on the other side have a fairly dense stand of laurel oak trees.  I don’t even have to lift a finger to get a “new” shade tree as evidenced by this laurel oak seedling!

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The animals:

I’ve had a number of animal species in or through the yard over the years.  These have included gopher tortoises, birds of prey like our “neighborhood” red-shouldered hawk, snakes, amphibians (frogs and toads), many song birds, a wayward otter and, based on tracks, one or more wild pigs.

At first, I thought this guy (or girl) was one of the many “outdoor domestic cats” we have living in our little corner of Seminole County.  I was a little surprised at seeing a mostly nocturnal species like this opossum (Didelphis virginiana) in broad daylight.  (I had a gut feeling that this one may have been an escaped pet – never a good idea).  Not wanting to push things too much, I took a couple of pictures from what was, I felt, a comfortable distance for both of us.

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He/she ambled away after a while.

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My family used to come to Florida on vacation when I was young.  Those visits were pre-theme park or, at least, theme parks were generally not on the itinerary.  What was on the itinerary was mostly beach, ocean and finding campgrounds that allowed easy access to both.  We had one of those fold-up campers pulled behind a station wagon neither of which had air conditioning.  Didn’t care as I recall.  One thing we did care about was the “lizards”.  They seemed to be everywhere and to a couple of growing boys – my brother and I –  from climate-challenged western New York state, they were just the coolest critters.  We called them green chameleons or just chameleons back then and gave chase at every opportunity.  These were, of course, anoles not chameleons as I would come to learn.  In my yard, the non-native brown anole (Anolis sagrei – pictured) is usually encountered as opposed to the native green anole (Anolis carolinensis).

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Holy grasshopper!

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I have no idea what attracted all these eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea guttata) nymphs to this cable pylon-thing in my front yard.  (For a few days, I had my own tourist attraction as several children from the neighborhood would come by to ooh and ahh). These nymphs are immature grasshoppers which, when adults, will be the big, slow moving, green and yellow grasshoppers (“lubbers”) which may be more familiar.  It seems that I may have been harboring a “nursery” for these creatures in my yard.  In the summer months, adult females dig a small hole in the ground in which they lay their eggs.  The young emerge in the spring in the form as seen here.  It’ll take them until the summer to be fully mature and begin the whole process again…maybe in someone else’s yard this time!

Well, there you have it – a little bit of nature outside my back (and front) doors.

Until next time,

David

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About David Hansen

A bunny- and tree- hugging biology-type with an appreciation for what nature has to offer.
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