Tag Archives: An Ecological History of Souther Lake Okeechobee

Southern Lake Okeechobee’s Custard Apple Swamp, an Ecological History by Zachariah A. Cosner

Photographer Sarah Brown’s wonderful images of Ritta Island give us a feeling of what the ancient custard apple forest of Lake Okeechobee must have been like. The 32,000 acres of trees along the southern rim of the lake is something we can only imagine, as this highly important forest was eradicated for agricultural purposes.  Zac Cosner’s work below gives great insights into the function and importance of this historic forest: (Sarah Brown Images: http://www.sarahbrownimages.com/florida-work.html)

Custard Apple Swamp, An Ecological History of Southern Lake Okeechobee by Zachariah A. Cosner

The document I share with you today, is one I fell in love with two years ago. At the time, Zachariah Cosner was a student writing his thesis at the University of Miami, today he works for the City of South Miami.

Zac’s ecological history of the destruction of Lake Okeechobee’s Custard Apple Forest is a metaphor for the ecological destruction of all South Florida. What was lost? What was torn from the earth, roots sprawling,  piled up like bodies and burned? 32,000 acres of ancient trees, bird rookeries, wildlife habitat, tangled linen-colored moonvine, as well as God’s sieve “to filter and purify the waters of Lake Okeechobee before they began the long southerly route through the ridges and sloughs of the river of grass… ”

This story, this ecological genocide was the beginnings of the Everglades Agricultural Area and is a story basically untold, forgotten. I post it here today with Zac’s permission for reference and access for all.  Please click on link below: 

 

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This SFWMD created image shows the 32,000 acres of custard apple forest (also called pond apple) that once existed prior to agricultural development.
This SFWMD created image shows the 32,000 acres of custard apple eradicated and replaced by the EAA or Everglades Agricultural Area that is primarily made up of sugar fields.
Florida Memory photo, pond apples belt at rim of dead river/creek. John Kunzel Small 1869-1938.

Zac Cosner can be reached at : zcosner@gmail.com