Tag Archives: 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



A Little Piece of Florida Along US1

I had driven past hundreds of times, but never stopped. Mostly because of the traffic and because by the time I noticed the sign, it was well in my rear view mirror as I navigated a sea of cars. This small section of Savannas Preserve State Park lies on the west side of US1 just south of Crosstown Parkway not too far from the boarder of Martin and St Lucie counties.

This past weekend, I passed it again and was determined this time to visit. It required a few back and forths,  but finally I turned into the “Savannas Preserve State Park, Evan’s Creek.

There were no signs of people. I put a few dollars into the state payment box and tore off the lip of the baby-blue envelope to hang on my mirror.

“Wow. This is cool I thought. I’m finally here.”

I noticed a sheriff car. I drove down a winding road through the middle of Florida scrub and what was perhaps once pine flatwoods. As in all Florida, drainage and development has altered the landscape but here there was plenty of “Old Florida” remaining. I felt relaxed and a hundred miles away from civilization!I drove slowly hoping to see a gopher turtle, noticing a sign to share the road.“This is amazing,” I thought. Once, all along US1 was scrub habitat. Think of all the animals. Think of all the birds. Think of the Native People. Think of the pioneers who where the first to clear this land…

I saw beautiful white sand, pine trees, woodpeckers, and little sparrow like birds I didn’t know. I saw sand pines and slash pines. One slash pine so large I wondered if it had escaped the loggers and turpentine men. I turned my head to see an osprey gliding over the savannas.

-A sand pine-Scrub habitat-white sands-a slash pine“Praise to the people who saved these places.” I thought. I could hear the hum of US1 in the near distance…

Finally,  I made it down to the end of the road, maybe a half mile or so, and there was a cul-de-sac and neatly folded information under a shaded area.

“Oh my gosh” I thought, “I’m at the river. I’m at the North Fork of the St Lucie River!”

I guess I knew that, but I certainly wasn’t thinking I was that close to the north fork every time I drove down busy US1 to Stuart. Somehow with all the cars, with all the noise, with all the technology, with all the billboards, it seemed much further away.

I parked, got out of the car, and walked around. I looked in the tannin waters. I thought about how great it was that no houses were here. “All these years; my whole life really, and I have never visited this place! Incredible.” It was so good to see fish jumping and wading birds hunting in almost total privacy. And for people there was a great canoe/kayak launch. As I walked back towards my car, I couldn’t believe my luck. A gopher turtle was happily eating along the dunes. I pondered the passage of time knowing this gopher’s ancestors also ate from these dunes, hundreds of thousands of years ago when they were islands in an inland sea…

It felt magical to be here knowing a busy modern world was only feet away. A little piece of Florida along US1 can go a long way.