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July 2016 Posts
7/27/2016 The Mysterious Rain Lily
When I first learned it many moons ago, the plant was called Zephyranthes atamasco, "Atamasco Lily," and "Rain Lily" but now it has been changed to Zephyranthes atamasca, or "Atamasco Lily," to make it easier. Whatever the spelling you choose, there is no water but rain water which will make this lovely native flower bloom.
In old South Florida developments where a combination of unirrigated or seldom irrigated St. Augustine and other plants comprises the lawn, rain lilies lie dormant, springing to life after a deep soaking rain. They appear in full bloom the very next day after a downpour. These are the wild-type, and due to their spotty distribution throughout neighborhoods, I think they are probably offspring from bulbs growing prior to 1920, before the undisturbed land was developed.
Of the few tropical bulbous flowering plants which grow in South Florida, these petit tropical Amaryllis relatives were seen to have potential for developing a useful herbaceous border plant for the Florida yard. Thus hybridizing was accomplished for bigger flowers, pinker flowers, larger, more vigorous foliage. Though the improved plant makes a lovely straight fine grassy foliage border, you will see no flowers unless it rains.
I find this to be an intriguing trait. We all know rain water is no longer as perfect as it once was, so what secret ingredient in rain water triggers this shy plant to burst into full bloom overnight? Could it be something we could make into a cosmetic, or even the Fountain of Youth?
One must be independently wealthy to investigate and answer such deep questions anymore. I'd like to take the issue to crowd-funding, but that means panhandling your friends on Facebook and other tacky gestures, so the mystery of why only rain makes rain lilies bloom will likely remain unsolved, or never even considered to any extent, except by a botanist.
7/14/2016 Okeechobee Cash Cow
Let's block out the din of politicians who never took a biology class and get our own facts and opinions of what is said and what has been done with the huge sums of appropriations, grants and donations which since 1992 have been dedicated to the primary purpose of restoring our watersheds as well as Saving the Everglades.
The Kissimmee River Restoration Project was first funded in 1992, a shared allocation of the ACOE and The South Florida Water Management District. Mind you, these are the same agencies which got us into the pickle we are in to begin with, the agencies which have been paid to remediate the Everglades Agricultural Area, and the agencies which make ongoing water management decisions, some years thowing us into water shortages, and this year throwing us into scum.
I would prefer that Southwest Florida Water Management be allowed to take over for South Florida Water Management. SFWM should be blamed for most everything that is wrong with its district water quality and supply.
Though many district wetland and coastal catastrophes may be assigned to the ACOE. Engineers are naturally not natural- they have to dredge and fill, blast, and build dikes, dams, and seawalls to make a living. And who can argue with the Army?
There is no one to enforce law, procedure or to monitor the accounts of ACOE and SWFM.
1. Wetland Protection Legislation By Todd H. Votteler, University of Texas Thomas A. Muir, National Biological Service, pubished by National Water Summary on Wetland Resources, United States Geological Survey
"Despite all the government legislation, policies, and programs, wetlands will not be protected if the regulations are not enforced. "
And that's the truth. In Florida, law on the books is not enforced.
Here under Environmental Results it is presently written "Undesirable floating and mat-forming plants have been replaced by emergent plants native to the historic river. "
3. South Florida Water Management spends its funds on creating all sorts of juicy sounding initiatives, surveys and assessments. They and the ACOE keep the St.Joe Paper Company in business.
There is no clue that Florida is in the middle of an environmental disease posted on the SFWMD website other than a marginal announcement that the Mitigation Belt Committee meets tomorrow night on Gun Club Road.
Oh, and they post a letter to our Senators bashing The Endangered Species Act, calling the US Fish and Wildlife Service "tin-eared bureaucrats."
Now that takes a lot of nerve. There was never a more bureaucratic organization conceived than SFWMD.
Somebody should sue SFWMD for violations of the Clean Water Act- a class action is only fair. They have gotten paid too much for nothing and are now run by pure arrogance.
7/9/2016 Making the Lake Okeechobee Dike into an Attractive Water Feature
In the 1990's I pursued all the latest research on mercury contamination of Everglades wildlife and came across one sensible proposal, I believe from a professor. Sedimention of nutrient rich waters by slowly running it in thin sheets over sloping rock slope in the full sun would trap mercury onto rock in its harmless natural inorganic environmental state. Unfortunately, bacteria in low oxygen waters use mercury instead of oxygen and this process makes an organic, or bio-available form of mercury which is what gets into animal tissues and poisons the food chain.
This is not an alarmist statement. For two decades, fish in Conservation Area 3 have been deemed unsafe for human consumption because of mercury levels in fish and wildlife tissues. It is posted there, along drainage canals and locks, but there are those who get their food from that part of the everglades closest to Broward County nevertheless.
Here is the link to the 40 page pdf Your Guide to Eating Fish Caught in Florida published by the Department of health, for those readers who don't have it committed to memory. As for the rest of Florida's fish eaters, I am sure they all have one handy already.
Thinking ahead to the inevitable when the now 200 square mile algal bloom atop Lake Okeechobee burns itself out and rots, all the inorganic mercury in solution in the lake will become subject to methylating bacteria as oxygen levels deplete lower in the lake from aerobic bacteria above breaking down the components of dead cells.
This will allow Lake managers to expose the Kissimmee River watershed to bio-available mercury in greater concentrations than have ever been released, once the bloom has begun deterioration.
I did not become a Mercury warrior because this is an invisible subject with few concerned and no chances for financing.
However, I did learn, in the field of landscape design, how to build a good waterfall. This has got me thinking that since the dike is so full of holes, here is an excellent opportunity to use the sedimentation onto rock process of water filtration, for agricultural wastewater released from the Lake.
Leave the existing dike walls from water release points, but construct a visually pleasing rock slope outward from the wall over which water can be trickle, trickle, trickled- a "water wall" is what we call this type of water feature in garden design. Calculating the length and slope of the water wall with rates of sedimentaion/liter can keep the ACOE busy, force water managers out of their offices into the wilderness of Port Myakka and Okeechobee for inspections, while U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be able to accept needed volumes of non-eutrophied water into the everglades.
Lake Okeechobee should become a water feature of National Noteworthiness- the most beautiful functional man made water feature in America!
The slopes will eventually have to drain across drainfields, which is a good thing, and the gobs of money which were raised to re-engineer the Kissimmee River are going to have to reappear. Marshes and swamps will have to be restored.
Environmental remediation works, but only if you do it. What happened to the Kissimmee Plan and Save the Everglades I do not know. I only know I am afraid to go to National Park anymore because of the giant pythons.
Lake Okeechobee and Kissimmee River Warning Flashback Articles, June 8, 1970
Florida Scum Report- 1
June 8, 1970 St Petersburg Times
"I think Lake Lake Okeechobee is going to go, just like all the lakes in this state are going to go. It's hell to fight and know you're losing, but people just won't believe you can't have your cake and eat it too." - L.A. Ager, Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission Biologist.
Florida Scum Report-2
June 8, 1970 St Petersburg Times
In 1968, Florida Governor Claude Kirk's Conservation Aide, Nathaniel Reed, whose salary was $1.00/year, warned the Army Corps of Engineers that straightening the Kissimmee River would make Lake Okeechobee one Big Jolly Green Giant. This article provides the history of the alterations of the Kissimmee River which once prevented the rapid flow of nutrient rich water to the Florida Atlantic coastal zone. The Kissimmee River was ordered to be straightened into a direct channel to the ocean from Lake Okeechobee, then straight-branch channelized to create "waterfront" real estate. Its original state was a winding river which moved slowly through marsh lands and riverine swamps. Marsh lands and swamps are nutrient "sinks," with unlimited capacity for the uptake of phosphorous and nitrates. Though efforts were begun some years ago to restore the natural flow of the Kissimmee River, the project seems to have been abandoned.
7/7/2016 by Leigh M. Fulghum, Botanist
Link of the Day: Facts about Sugar Cane Culivation from Brazil
The Clouds of Water War Accumulate
Palm Beach County up to now has had few sighted scummings, said to be normal for this time of year, in its section of Intracoastal and inland waterways. Thank goodness Palm Beach is clean, though there is no actual beach left on Palm Beach Island itself. Palm Beach Island's "beach" is a very high seawall dropping off to a short stretch of imported sand which the ocean merrily carries off grain by grain until it has to be replenished again.
Lake Worth is a biologically "dead" lake, once teeming with leaping fish. At the end of the day it is old Palm Beach Society industrial wealth and its associated financial institutions which pushed and pushes past and present state and federal legislation that makes a sane plan of environmental remediation in Florida impossible.
Though politicians, for show, wag their fingers at state and federal agencies, ranching, and farming, it is Palm Beach wealth-backed politicians who developed Florida into an environmentally unsound paradox. Government agencies staffed with biologists and people who all along knew better, have all along been forced to serve private interests (or not have a job) who exploited Florida to the hilt for personal pleasure and gain, with no regard for nature, conservation, repaying a debt to mother earth, and with no consideration for future generations.
Now Martin County, to the north of Palm Beach County, has been able to pressure water management to pump a higher volume of Lake Okeechobee waters into Palm Beach County since Martin County is totally slimed. This will not sit well with the Department of Tourism and The Breakers Hotel if the beach turns green.
Mark Rubio is running about blaming Big Sugar for not selling its land South of Lake Okeechobee as a buffer zone. This is the easiest way to go- everybody hates Big Sugar, but let us see for ourselves why this diversionary play is an impossible "solution."
One has to merely drive north on U.S. 27 from Everglades Conservation Area 3, where all fish are deemed unfit for human consumption due to mercury contamination, to see that the majority of Big Sugar is planted to the south of Lake Okeechobee as it always has been. The storehouses, refineries, packing houses and train tracks are all in place. Big Sugar is planted in this location south of the Lake because it is the best region for growing sugar cane.
I drive through this area frequently and the first thing I look at is the condition of the drainage ditches bordering the plantations, which are then bordered by grassy swales graded slightly higher than the road. Road run-off from the many trucks on this highway is not likely to reach the ditches. I wish I might have seen a scummy ditch along a sugar plantation over which I could file a complaint with the appropriate jurisdiction. But the drainage ponds of Big Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee have been unreportable for visible eutrophic pollution whenever I have traveled their course. I suppose I will just have to go on a photo tour to demonstrate this, though visitors on any of the agricultural lands are not welcomed!
However, the scummy ditches are those in West Palm Beach County, bordering developments made over former vegetable truck crop and nursery land, whose eroded banks are planted with Casuarina and have no understory of grasses and herbs on the margins to trap nutrient run-off.
Far more water, fertilizer and pesticides are required to grow nursery trees and other fruit and vegetable crops of Florida, than to grow sugar cane in muck, especially in Dade County where the soil of many sites used for agriculture is very low in organic matter and minerals are not bio-available to plants. There is a lot of scum in Dade County, right atop the Everglades National Park.
Let's talk about golf. Golf turf grasses require weekly fertilization, fungicides, and constant irrigation and maintenance using fuel burning machinery. For many years, Mil-organite, the re-processed sewage of Milwaukee, was the fertilizer of choice for Florida turf grass. This was and in places may still be washed regularly right into ponds which communicate with each other in the groundwater.
According to State of Florida State Facts,
That is quite a distinction for Palm Beach County- more golf courses which waste irrigation and fertilizer for fun in one county than any other county in the United States!
Does Palm Beach have its share of slime coming down the pike, or from holes in the dike?
Suppose U.S. Sugar moved its operations to Brazil by selling off its crop acreage for a water reservoir near Lake Okeechobee. Suppose Florida even helped PAY to relocate Big Sugar out of the Kissimmee River watershed?
Is this the answer, Mark Rubio, ecologist extraordinaire?
Nope. Please Try Again Later.
7/6/2016 by Leigh M. Fulghum, Botanist
Who Ya' Gonna Call?
The affected areas extend into four counties now, and though the recent release of fresh water from the Lake Okeechobee agricultural area has been implicated, this has not been confirmed as the sole cause of the bloom. Citizens, we have to look at ourselves and stop blaming everything on agriculture which has for a number of years now been increasingly regulated and made to comply with environmental protection enforcements.
Many private companies are hopping up and down to employ their proprietary technologies with state funding, naturally, to clean up the bloom. Because commercial fishing and tourism are essential to Florida's economic well-being, the Governor will eventually have to mandate a course of action.
Here are some facts about marine and fresh water ecology:
All methods which eradicate blue-green or other algal blooms by mechanically harvesting or chemically destroying algae cause release of the organismic cellular contents into the water. In six weeks, the bloom will return. Because, the waste products from destruction of the organic material become food for the proliferation of cyano-bacterial communities which deplete the oxygen supply in the water. This results in fish kills and loss of life in various strata of the food chain.
The presence of high bacterial colonies in the water produces nitrates just like fertilizers which in a certain cycle of time will re-fertilize the ocean and inlets and enhance abnormal algal growths. The ocean is naturally an oligotrophic, or "nutrient poor" system, like the Florida Everglades- bacterial activity in normal oligotrophic systems provides sufficient nutrients to sustain life. But too many bacteria, just as in the human body, constitute una problema grande.
This is why pond and lake maintenance services are employed on a regular basis to control algal blooms and margin pond scum. They spray the water to eradicate the appearance of scum, but it returns because exploding the algal cells re-fertilizes the water.
There are other considerations which impact the integrity of our aquifers and waterways besides the Everglades Agricultural Area. These are:
A citizen of Florida commented, "Now none of us can enjoy the water."
Likely the high temperatures this summer are accelerating rapid turnover of bacterial populations. Poisoning the algae and mechanical harvesting are not going to help.
As our population grows and grows, so will pollution of Florida's waterways grow into a shop of horrors unless citizens begin considering what we have to sacrifice so that at least some of us can enjoy the water.