Florida Trip – Day 3

June 14th, 2007

Day 3: Somewhere outside of Tampa

First Collection Site for the Day

We spent the night in Tampa on Friday, spending some time with Michael’s cousin, who treated us to some homemade ice cream. That provided exactly the fuel we needed to get up and going on Saturday, hitting lots of collection ditches across the state. Our first collection site happens to be outside of Tampa near where a few fish farms used to be located. Our thinking is this: where fish farms used to be, leftover exotic fish must have escaped via flooding or hurricane into the local waterways. We’re driving around and pass over a small stream-fed canal, where we come to a sudden stop to get out. As you can see above, it’s not the prettiest site, but as we’ll soon learn, sometimes the least promising looking pools can yield the best results.

What's in the net this time?

We dip in our nets, and find a plethora of different species. Of course, we pull out more than our fair share of gambusias (mosquito fish), but we also end up with some blue-fin killies, Heterandria formosa, and grass shrimp. In addition to that, we see a very large gar and a group of bass and sunfish. All-in-all, a very nice catch on the fish side. Unfortunately, there weren’t many interesting plants to speak of. That will soon change.

Parrots Feather

We get back in the car, head out toward Zolfo Springs, in the middle of the state, and along the way end up on a bridge overlooking the Little Manatee River. We look down at some beautiful patches of bright green plants along the edge of the river. Ghazanfar and I identify some of the plants as the common bacopa monnieri, hydrocotle, and hygrophilia polysperma, but one other plant is hard to identify from above. Of course, at the possibility that we might have discovered a new stem plant, we descend down the steep and heavily overgrown riverbank to take a closer look. What do we find? Well, the extremely exotic *cough* Parrot Feather. Nevertheless, we sample a few stems and head on our way.

Gator!

Continuing to drive across the state, we see signs for Lake Okeechobee, spot a boat dock, and pull over. On a previous GWAPA trip, three years ago, our members pulled pounds of grass shrimp from vegetation along the banks of this very same canal. This time, not only was the water very low, but it was also completely free of any vegetation. We later learn that the state is treating the water with herbicide to try and contain some invasive species of plants. It seems that it’s killing more than just the invasive types. In any case, our stop was not totally uneventful because off in the distance, one of our members spot two humps, the head and back, of an alligator swimming down the channel. Check that one off my list — See an alligator in Florida, DONE!

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