Tag Archives: Sand Pine scrub

Giant Sand Pines! You Never Know What You May See…

 It was Memorial Day weekend and there was just enough time to go see that place…

Walton Scrub is easy to pass. Located at 10809 S. Indian River Drive between Jensen and Ft Pierce, the only clue that it exist is a sign and a small parking area. Look east for a marvelous view of the Indian River Lagoon. Turn west and find 33-hidden acres containing threatened and endangered plants found only in the habitat of scrub.  A half- mile self-guided interpretive trail is available on line.

~Ed agreed to go so long as I drove and if it only took an hour.

“So you really want to show me this scrub again? Haven’t you already taken me to places like this?”  

“Ed, I have but every place is different. You never know what you may see!”  

I became interested in scrub environments about three years ago. Scrub seemed more interesting once I realized how ecologically valuable it is and how humans have gobbled-up almost every inch for development. I have so many memories of running through scrub as a kid and today there is basically “none” left.

My childhood home in St Lucie Estates had been a sand pine forest, and there were many empty lots.  I remember sand pines, scrub oaks, gopher tortoises, scrub jays, and indigo snakes. I remember hot white sands and blue tailed skinks. For me, even today, the sand pine scrub represents my childhood.

And in this special preserve, this Walton Scrub, on this special day, Ed and I found the most enormous sand pine trees I have ever seen. Bent and enduring; tremendous and old. I felt as though I was looking at a ponderosa itself!

“Holy cow, Ed, look at the size of this sand pine!” I shouted out, running my hand over the rugged bark.

“Now that is big Jacqui.”

“Yes! It’s huge. Bigger than any I have seen. These are very special.” I marveled while Ed took my picture.“Amazing.” I thought.

We started down the Interpretive Trail learning about a former pineapple plantation, hickory trees, sand oaks, sand pines, and a host of other familiar but different flora and fauna.

“Look how white the sand is! Isn’t it cool?”

Ed smiled, we walked down the trail finding a menagerie of interesting things and a few more gigantic sand pines, as well as a gorgeous live oak.

“That is a beautiful oak tree Ed. Smile!”-Sand Pine cone must be exposed to fire to open making it harder to reproduce.-Another huge sand pine-Sand pine bark-Wind swept gigantic sand pine We walked under a fallen tree, then Ed saw something that really interested him. The railroad tracks. We could see that the tracks were being doubled. We talked about how much a high-speed train would change the Treasure Coast’s character and how things had changed it before, -like the first time Henry Flagler came though these sand dunes.

It seemed in no time we were through. Ed and my short but wonderful walk back in time was also a reminder of future change. I’m just glad, Ed and I saw the biggest sand pines we have ever experienced. “You never know what you may see.” And now, Ed agrees!

-Ed studies changes to the railroad tracks. -A sand pine forest of tall thinner trees-Rosary pea-Maybe a harvester ant pile-Prickly Pear delicious for gopher tortoisesGopher tortoises are keystone species creating habitat for hundreds of more animals-Gopher habitat- you can make you yard more appealing to gophers by letting parts go natural-Young sand oak and reindeer moss a classic feature of a scrub habitat-Sand pines are known for leaning due to wind-Pretty lichen atop oak bark- white and pink -Ed gets his photo before a giant sand pine too! -Budding hammock paradise tree



Closest to Home

Sometimes the most beautiful places, are the places closest to home. Savannas Preserve State Park, established in 1978, stretches more than ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing the “largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.”

Ed and I usually visit through the Jensen Beach Boulevard entrance, but recently we entered at Walton Road. The beauty was remarkable!

According to the state’s handout, it was Lt. Benjamin Pierce who first used the term “savannah” to describe a series of ponds and marshes and more that he came upon during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).

If you live near the Treasure Coast, this 5,400 acres offers a valuable close to home experience. Ed and I were there before sunset and even on a cloudy day the lighting was awe inspiring. A wonderful afternoon! Thank you to those who had the foresight to preserve these lands between the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.-Ed takes photos of many small and colorful wild flowers and native plants.-Hello armadillo!-My arms are not even the length of a brown pelican’s wing span!-Ed is shorter than a sandhill crane!-Now this is a great classroom!Savannas Preserve State Preserve Park, Florida Parks System.



Remembering the Scrub Jays of Our Childhood Backyard

A Florida Scrub Jay: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Florida_Scrub-Jay/id

When I was a kid, my brother, sister and I lived on Edgewood Drive in Stuart. My parents were great about teaching us to appreciate, respect and love wildlife. Today, many of our actions would be frowned upon. We fed the animals, and at one time or another, had wild pets. It was wonderful!

This weekend unable to garden trapped inside by relentless rain, I started thinking to myself “what did the ecosystem of my childhood backyard really look like?” That was the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Could I find anything that looked like it today? Does my yard, today, resemble it at all? 

So I took a drive to the old neighborhood.

St Lucie Estates looks a lot the same but our family house has been knocked down and replaced by one much larger. Also every lot is developed. When I was growing up, our house was surrounded by a number of empty lots and as kids we roamed freely.  These undeveloped lots allowed my siblings and I to have native nature right in our “backyard.” 

I racked my brain to think of where I might find a comparable lot to the ones in St Lucie Estates. I wanted to see what plants were on it. What trees. The color of the sand.

I drove east on East Ocean Boulevard.

Near Kingswood Condominium I found one lot that looked a lot like the ones I ran around in as a kid. Although drained and full of invasives, the space held a few recognizables: a sand pine, a stand of sand oaks, yucca, palmettos, prickly pear cactus, and other flowering plants and grasses whose names I never learned.  

Seeing the Kingwood lot brought back a lot of memories and I thought about how this once familiar habitat is basically gone. This rare Florida Scrub has  been covered with shopping malls and subdivisions most sporting heavily fertilized floratam along with a variety of ornamentals.

I wondered why developers just cleared the natives. I am realizing that my childhood home must have been a Florida Scrub environment. For goodness sake, one of our favorite wild friends was the very smart Scrub Jay! We never thought  that our house may have destroyed their favorite bushes. We just smiled and lifted our arms strong and high -palms perfectly flat balancing one nut. Always, they came. So smart! So consistent!

Of course Scrub Jays are now a threatened species whose habitat is considered to be one of the most endangered in the world…

~The location of my childhood backyard.

After getting the photos from Kingwood, I decided to drive north to Jensen to visit Hawk’s Bluff off of Savannah Road. Here I could walk and remember the some of the sights of my childhood. This is one of the few places the Florida Scrub Ecosystem has been saved.

~The wind whistled through the trees. I felt timeless. The rain had brightened the usually muted colors. I sat on the bench. Lake Henderson’s grey and purple reflection resembled a Monet. It was beautiful!

I was alone in my childhood backyard…

I raised my arms above my head, hands upright bent -perfectly flat.

Would a Scrub Jay come to visit?

I held my arms up until I could no longer -putting them down- I got up to walk my adult path.

My little sister, Jenny, proudly feeds a neighborhood Scrub Jay, St Lucie Estates, Edgewood Drive, Stuart, ca.1972. (Family Album)
Cousin Drew Hudson and I feed the Scrub Jays 1972, St Lucie Estates, Stuart, FL (Family Album)

Visit #1 one of the last undeveloped lots near Kingswood Condominium, East Ocean Drive, Stuart, Florida, still reveals native scrub vegetation:

Somehow this cactus garden has grown and survived! Prickly pear is a common scrub plant and a favorite of gopher turtles.
Prickly pear.. Ouch!
Scrub oak and palmetto in a remaining lot off East Ocean Blvd.
A rare sand pine of the Florida Scrub was once prolific requiring fire for pine cones to open and take seed.
Flower of the scrub
Prickly pear in sandy soil with other ground cover

Florida Scrub:



Scrub Jays:




Visit #2 Hawk’s Bluff in Savannas Preserve Park is rare gem of the Florida Scrub landscape and it’s wildlife:

New signs including Scrub Jay and Florida Scrub Habitat signs, Florida Park Service, photo album below from Hawk’s Bluff, 11-3-19