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A photo diary of not-yet-winter North Florida.

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations. Birds, bugs, blooms and more - each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
Mid-December 2012

A warm day brings them out

It’s been a good year for Daily Buckets, talking and reading and learning about nature, and as a first year Bucketeer, I certainly have learned a lot - about your place and what you see, about my place and what I see, about places we visit, and things we think about. So many friends I've never met but there's so much you share. Keep it going y'all!

Heading out late in the morning after the fog, it was damp and quiet, a pleasant time to walk my half-mile of trails up and down this 5 acre slope thru various habitats. Up the hill are the big loblolly pines and live oaks; around my little home crowd 2 dozen southern magnolias; here and there are cherries, hickories, sweetgums and water oaks for summer shade & winter sun.

The understory has dogwood, sassafras, wax myrtle and holly - plus encroaching grape and greenbrier, vines big enough, persistent enough, to strangle the slender trees. Yes yes my lovelies, I know it’s time for axes and lopers, saws and shovels, freeing you for another year. Oh, can’t forget the earliest bloomer, the flowering crabapple I rescued. And sparkleberries! All much better off than 5 years ago when I first became caretaker.

A green border of horse-sugar halfway down the hill separates dry from wet land. Redbuds share this zone with sprawling beech trees and ever-present sweetgums. Towering above are spruce pines and tulip poplars.

This east-facing hill bottoms out with occasional standing water. Here the bay trees (and sweetgums...) shade ferns and spring ephemerals. Heck, this year I finally identified a late fall bloomer - the only one!

So, can ya tell I love this place? Haven’t even mentioned the rare plants found here.

More photos down below, grouped but not in the order taken. I generally prefer trail order on hike photos so I can remember them in context, if you know what I mean.

We started this diary, and my hike, with the green anole - happy to be in the sun, not happy when I stuck my stick at it. Bite bite. It's sitting on lantana I will dig up. It's hard to tell these invasive plants from the similar beautyberry until those drop their leaves.

Southern cricket frog (Acris gryllus) - maybe an inch long, hiding in plain sight but quick to jump 3 feet away and disappear. A struggle for me to be still, get closer, try to focus, and spot it thru lens.

Dainty sulphur - saw the bright yellow wings in flight all fall but it shrinks from sight when landing. I stretched for this photo.

Spiders: - we’ll come back to those…


Pokeweed - late secondary growth for some lucky muncher. I trim spring shoots to get 2 main stalks that grow head-high.

Coral bean pods - I’ve learned how to scarify the beans and grow these so I now have other colonies. Watched hummingbirds visit the red tubular flowers this summer.

Lobelia Georgiana -  a lavender bloom, common farther north, delicate here. Took 2 years to ID but I learned its cycle -- blooms in November, dies back now.

Grape fern - this specimen has been around 3-4 years that I know of. Its annual stalk puffs a cloud of spores as I touch it. I've spotted a dozen of these in "shaded microhabitats with decomposing leaf litter and somewhat acidic soil."

Rhododendron canescens  - big bud getting ready to bloom with a few green leaves from last year. This is down where it’s wet and sheltered.

Rhododendron austrinum "Flame Azalea" also has buds but has yet to bloom for me. I even chopped down a magnolia to give it morning light. 1 of only 2 plants that aren't growing naturally; Indian Pink was the other, both gifts.

My mystery plant - that’s as big as they get, never seen a bloom or seeds but it does spread.  


The big sweet gum by front porch that I really wish had been cut down 20 years ago, now a whopping 50-60’. Multiple the pointy balls on that branch by a 100 and I’ll be picking them up all winter.

Spruce pine (pinus glabra) high above the bottoms - 2 foot trunk, 70-80 feet high.
Hey, that is big for Florida!

Dead tree standing - yes, soon dead. The killer laurel wilt is near here and this stand of red bay trees (and others in the Lauraceae family such as sassafras) will die - and all because of shipping pallets carrying in a beetle from overseas.

Beech tree - down the hill where it gets wetter, shaded enough that fall comes really late.


Downed trees from last year, add rain and mushrooms come to life. The big 8" brown leaves are magnolia, the smaller are water oak.

I'm fascinated by the blue on this stem, visible now after its world went sideways.

The usual Amanita - pushed around by something, maybe nibbled. It’s growing on a 2 foot high mound of dead oak and pine trees.

And finally ------   Spiders:

This garden spider has been hanging around the porch for a couple weeks. I walked into the first web by my door so it rebuilt from porch siderail to roof. I watched it eat 2 bees in 1 day. That web wore out and she made another outside the porch. Here she is - Lady in Blue.

Update - a 2nd garden spider is now in front of kitchen window and hanging across the walkway. Do I walk around another way or gently shift the web? Bless them both for occupying my day.

Iridescent beauty deep in the woods.
After I got too close, she scooted to safety on a tree, a leg or 2 still on web. Side note - I’m back to using the Fuji HD2000 and the Nikon L810 goes to Ann. She gets the new easier-to-use camera, I got super-macro back.

One of the 2 Golden Orb Weavers I saw around house this summer. Lucky shot on the shadow.

That’s it for my woods in December. The bumper crop of acorns is slowly being eaten or ground in, last year's leaves blanket the woods, and buds for next year’s growth are waiting. It’s been mild so far but January always gets colder than you expect with nights in the 20s.  Hope y’all enjoyed this little hike and please, jump in with news of your backyard.

Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 4:02 PM PT: Mystery plant identified. Virginia Snakeroot .. Aristolochia serpentaria

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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