Corey Walker, the Cooperative Forestry Assistant for Hillsborough County, will talk about the Champion Tree Program created by the American Forests organization in 1940 to recognize the largest known tree of each species in the United States. Florida now has the most national champions of any state.
American Forests publishes their National Register of Big Trees every two years. The 2012 edition of the Register includes 111 Florida species, many of which are only found in the tropical region of the state. The largest National Champion tree in Florida is a native Bald Cypress located in Hamilton County. This tree measures 557 inches in circumference, stands 84 feet tall, and carries a crown spread of 49 feet.
On the left: This champion South Florida slash Pine of Florida made its debut on the list of American Forests Champion Trees in 2009, as it is the largest known tree of its species in the country. By recognizing these champions, we recognize the beauty and critical ecosystem services provided by our biggest and oldest trees. Search the register to find more champions.
Although not a national champion, The Senator was the largest native tree of any kind in Florida until its demise in January, 2012. This gigantic bald cypress overlooked Big Tree Park in Seminole County from a height of 118 feet. It measured 425 inches in circumference, and spread its crown over an average of 57 feet.
Corey Walker has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forest Resources Management and Conservation from the University of Florida. Previously, he was the state lands forester at the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest (LWRSF) for seven years.
Meetings are held at the Hillsborough County Extension, 5339 County Rd 579, Seffner. (813) 679-5597. Free. Light refreshments. A plant auction follows the presentation. For more information visit suncoastnps.org.
The Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve in Plant City promises to have a great display of fall wildflowers. Two SNPS members visited the preserve in July and the goldenrod, narrow-leaf sunflowers and paintbrush were already starting to bloom. The pristine habitats include pine flatwoods, palmetto prairie and riverine swamp, interspersed with oak hammock, cypress swamp, freshwater marsh and wet prairie. In addition to its diverse plant life, deer, wild turkey, Sherman's fox squirrel, and a variety of birds may be seen.
The trail is 4 miles, but there are cross trails to return sooner for those who prefer a shorter hike. For those who do the entire hike, expect to be in the preserve for at least 4 hours. But, you don't have to walk far to appreciate the beauty of this preserve. From the parking lot, the trail traverses a couple miles of pine flatwoods filled with sweeping grasses and colorful wildflowers. Plants in the pine flatwoods include a dense understory of saw palmetto, gallberry, wax myrtle, wiregrass, and broomsedge. Drier areas contain sand live oak, paw paw, shiny blueberry, while wet areas are dotted with hat pins, gallberry, and St. John's wort.
Our halfway stop will be Blackwater Creek, where we will stop for lunch while enjoying beautiful views of the water. This area of the preserve is also known for its diverse plant life. Canopy species include bald cypress, cabbage palm, American elm, pop ash, black gum, water oak, laurel oak, water hickory, red maple, and hackberry. Shrubs under the tree canopy include button bush, bumelia, swamp dogwood, shiny lyonia, wax myrtle, and wild coffee.
The preserve is also dotted with cypress swamp, wet prairie and freshwater marshes where we are sure to see many more plants, such as pipe wort, marsh pennywort, smart weed, broomsedge, and soft rush. Deeper wetlands support pickerelweed, duck potato, soft rush, and spikerush. variety of ferns, spoon flower, lizard’s tail, day flower, star rush, wild petunia, and water grass may also be seen.
As usual, bring plenty of water, insect repellant and sunscreen. Also, if you plan to hike to the river, bring a lunch or snacks.
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