A Proper North Florida Weekend

This past Saturday with a little nudge from my sister I went down to the Fernandina location of the 6th annual First Coast Air Potato Round-up managed by Kathy Russell (a Wild Amelia Nature Festival board member). I feel like I owe it to the native plants that provided me with such exceptional wildlife viewing experiences last year to help control the runaway pest plants they have to compete with. I know for a fact that if an air potato escaped into the lot next to my place there’s a tall, skinny Hercules club tree and a beautiful Passiflora lutea vine, both of which are significant butterfly host plants, that would be easily over taken by it. I knew the heart-shaped leaf from a single specimen that cropped up across the street from me a couple years back, but I had no idea how closely the propagule resembled an actual potato.

The week long hard freeze of the ’10/’11 winter was thought to have dealt with this plant pretty handily, but after such a mild past season they’ve come back so strong that I could sit in one place and fill a good sized tupper-ware with air potatoes that were all within arms reach.

From the Air Potato Round-up I headed downtown to the Amelia Garden Show. The Tent for Reflections of Nature‘s native plant offerings was right through the entrance and the native azalea was by far the most popular thing amongst the pollinators.

As much as I love plants my favorite mainstay of the garden show is the Avian Reconditioning Center of Apopka, FL’s booth. This year they had a little screech owl who’d lost an eye in a blue jay mauling and a handler who credited the birds she cares for with pulling her through a bout with cancer. I definitely want to visit their center in person one day.

This day was my sister, Emily Montgomery’s birthday and as the coordinator of this year’s Air Potato Round-up she said that all she wanted was for me to show up and help at my local site. We’ve been through some rough spots in our relationship as siblings but I’m really proud of her these days for the extremely important outreach work she’s doing on behalf of the GTM-NERR and Florida ecology. It feels like we’re a team again, Each of us trying to achieve the same goal with our respective talents. Namely, creating a future where another brother and sister can enjoy a moment like the one pictured below going off the trail in a pristine natural environment with curiosity and purpose. On her birthday both of us were ducking branches in different parts of North Florida doing our part.

More photos on flickr here.

Lastly, a video edit of some of the day’s highlights (Pill bugs at the Air Potato Round-up, Bumble bees on the Reflections of Nature native azalea, and some of the Avian Reconditioning Center’s birds)

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