You Won't Rot Your Teeth on Meadow Sweet

Guest post by Nancy Dobias

If you're ready to venture away from the Myakka River and its wildlife, another face to Myakka River State Park involves the many trails that meander through the 37,000 acres.   Although it's generally a hard sell to get me away from the river, the sunny cooler temps made it a good time to finally check out whatever lay beyond the MEADOW SWEET PASTURE entrance gate....

It's too bad that we didn't stop at the main entrance to get a trail map.  Although the many hikers/bikers who use this trail may know where they were going, we didn't.  Trails went in all directions and I was glad Larry was there to give me some orientation as to where we might be.  Generally I just follow my camera and on this trail it naturally pulled me towards all the beautiful colors and textures ....

I was delighted when we occasionally saw water on either side of the trail.   "Maybe an alligator might be bedding down in these grasses," I thought.  

It was also neat to come across one of those Florida park benches and an informational bulletin board that gives a pictorial "history" of the land which Bertha Palmer used to own.  I can't imagine how wealthy she must have been to have owned the land from I-75 to the Gulf.  That would have been one magnificent piece of property!  It was nice to see the old pictures...

...and to read the November 15, 1917 farm invoice and learn how much people were earning....

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Learning experiences can be found everywhere in the park.  One oddity that provoked our curiosity involved a PVC pipe inserted into the side of some  grasses.  "What on earth is that for??" we asked.  Later, after we returned home and consulted the trail map (that we should have taken with us), we found the answer.  The pipe marks the presence of an invasive grass called CogonGrass and it's marked so that it can be sprayed and hopefully eradicated.  If you're like us and don't know what Cogon Grass is, here's a great informational and educational site that might help you to understand why the U.S. doesn't want this grass.  Perhaps it will also help you to identify it.  

USDA

Here's something I could use your help in identifying.  When we were walking down the trail, we encountered this little guy....  He had come out of the grasses and was hoping to cross the trail inconspiculously but when he sensed our being near him, he froze and didn't continue his journey.  The snake was not threatening but I found him intriguing because his body was too round, too "rotund" for his length.  A thicker snake to me is a possible poisonous one.  I kept trying to get a close-up of his head to see if it had a triangular shape but the grasses interfered with my getting a good picture.  A book we consulted later suggested that the snake might be a pygmy rattlesnake.  He wasn't all that long--less than a foot.   If that's what he is, he must be a baby.  We couldn't see any rattle on his tail, but their rattles are small and the dead grass on the trail was acting like a camoflauge agent.   

Our neighbor suggested a site that he found useful in the identification of Florida snakes.  If you'd like to check it out too, the site is:

http://floridabackyardsnakes.com/

Whatever the snake was, he too turned out to be a "learning" experience for us.  I know snakes live in the wild but they generally make themselves scarse and we don't tend to see them when we're out and about.  If this was a pygmy rattlesnake, then he's the first one we've seen!

That wasn't the only "first" that we encountered.  To see this "first," we had to leave the trail and venture through the woods.  Because I had seen some pretty grasses on the other side of the woods,  I wanted to know if this was a picture opportunity.  As we got closer to the grasses, I was hesitant to keep going since the grasses were too high to afford a good picture.  Larry figured we could still check it out so on we went.  It was then that we caught site of what I first thought was a coyote who had missed too many dinners.  Wrong!   Wrong!  Wrong!

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Wild Boars!  Who would have thought??!!!  I have no idea why I first thought I was seeing a thin coyote....

Yes, the Myakka River State Park has lots to experience, lots to learn, and lots to enjoy.  If you'd like to check out this trail, it's along the main road in the park and it'll be right before you get to the Y that takes you to either the birdwalk or to the restaurant/gift shop area.  Maps are available at the entrance to the park.