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- and goodbye you nasty Sand Pines.

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March 2014

Torreya State Park is more than the hiking trails I wrote of last month. Additions of nearby timber lots have been made to the park thru various entities and grants. I haven't followed those details but heard thru friends that state funding to restore or even maintain the park land is pitiful. The area is part of the Apalachicola River ravine system and was once owned by timber companies like St Joe. After decades of harvest, they planted Sand pines (aka scrub pines) in one last attempt of get something out of the land they put nothing into. Thus row upon row of densely planted Sand pine spread thru the Florida Panhandle like a cancer on the earth. In some places there are Slash pine planted as timber decades ago but not able to grow in this weak "bare mineral" soil that Longleaf favors.

I don't have a photo of Sand pines for this bucket, but picture miles and miles of a even-aged monoculture of unnatural pines sucking up any available nutrients but not growing much. However, there are good things happening too - here's a satellite view of the area. The park is north at the top, annex below it, and down to the south is The Nature Conservancy. The Apalachicola Rivir flows along the west side.

The brownish areas at TNC are former Sand pines scraped clean and replanted with Longleaf pines and its best friend Wiregrass. The green between the pines are the steephead ravines eating their way across. They remind me of fractals.

The red circle is about where we were working Sunday. The goal is to replicate TNC. The Park Biologist was slowly doing this section by section, year by year, on sporadic grant money and volunteer labor. Besides our crew of a dozen native plant enthusiasts, there were a bunch of firefighters down from Virginia on "vacation" - some federal share program that was not explained. Inmates from a nearby facility work here often. On the way in we saw a guy out by himself with a dibble and sack stepping off paces and planting in a row only he knew. After we wrapped up, I saw him checking out with Ranger Mark and realized - community service!  We found that funny and unexpected way out here in nowheres.

Follow the row of distant planters below the fold for more photos...

My partner for the day, Ms Ellen, and her trusty dibble. I followed her all day planting. We were filling in a section that had been planted too thin. The day was exceptionally bright, not a cloud in the sky, and made it hard to see across the clearing.

The pine seedlings were grown in tubes and shipped to the park in a refrigerated trailer. I'd guess 200-300 seedlings per box. We did 22 boxes and Mark said he had 28 left. The rush was on to get them in before drying out.  

The roots are 6" long by 1"; the tops are 8-12".

Jab the ground with the dibble, force it in with your foot, and twist it around. Place the seedling in and kick the dirt around. Repeat. I left the house at 7:30, we got to the park at 9, the field by 10, and were planting shortly after. We worked till 2, all wore out from the sun and labor.

A panorama of our work area. Not sure what "lightbox" will do with this 5,400 pixel image but hopefully you can click thru to see more details. We were very thankful for the oak trees that did not get cut - a shady spot for lunch.

Nope, it got squished. Try this link for the broad vista. You have to twiddle with a slider to get the full view; man they make it hard… the price of "free."

After lunch I wandered over to the closest ravine and slipped over the edge and into another world of green and water. The slopes run about 45º. sometimes steeper. At the head of the ravine, water seeps from the ground and joins other seeps and becomes a creek that joins other creeks and it all ends up in the river.  Well not always, the Army COE, by dredging the Apalach in the past, blocked or slowed many of these creeks.

The clear cold water is 2-3 inches deep with a sandy bottom and criss-crossed with shadows from Florida Anise and Horse-sugar trees that line the banks.

Gratuitous spring photo of Redbud against a deep blue sky - taken as we gathered outside the Gregory House at the park.


A tailgate sticker on the truck of one of the local volunteers.
Tell us what ya really think Bill!

Not much more to say about this day of planting. Annual burns to keep a favorable habitat will start in a few years. TNC has done wonders in learning the ins and outs of restoration and sharing this knowledge. And bless the many private landowners in the area that are returning to Longleaf pines. It's cool to realize someday I can drive by or look at satellite views and know I had a small part in this restoration.

Thursday update - rain most the night and rain right now and rain sucking off the Gulf for a few more hours. My gauge is near 2". Lows around 40º the next 2 nights but it will be sunny and 70 this weekend!

And The Daily Bucket is now open for your thoughts and observations...

"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!

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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 04:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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