Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Scrub Running Trail Part II - Rosemary Bald

This morning, I took a trail that I've had my eye on for awhile. It started not too far from the alligator lily patch that I showed you a few weeks ago. Weekends are great for exploring!

The trail started out as a nice scrubby flatwoods. I could hear some turkeys in the distance but not much else. I did find one friend....

A black racer was hunting in the grass. He had absolutely no clue that I ran up to him.

The trail started going up! For you non-Floridians, this is a Florida mountain. It is also a nice oak scrub. The scrubby flatwoods was very firm ground. Now the sand is deep and soft. Scrubs forests are formed on these "mountains" that were actually ancient sand dunes.

Here are some very small bear tracks.

Here is a nice little gopher apple patch in the oak scrub. The gopher apples are flowering right now. Once the fruit ripens later in the year, I'll cut one open and eat one for you.

And things really got interesting. Deep sugar sand. As you can see, only my tracks are on the trail along with some old tire ruts from the Forestry Department. This is my kind of snow. It feels good on the feet!

The sides of the trail were covered in various ground lichens. It looked like a tiny coral reef.

And then my heart stopped, a rosemary bald! Rosemary balds are the rarest type of scrub and one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) is a type of heath that makes this area distinctive. This was by far the biggest rosemary bald I've ever seen. This particular bald extended for about a 500 yard diameter. On its edges, sand pines were encroaching and starting to crowd out the rosemarys.

Another view of the bald. It feels ancient here. Like stepping back into time.

Here are some mature rosemarys. Rosemarys secret a chemical to keep other plants from germinating around them. The brown on the sand beneath the plant are dried needles. The white circles  in the brown area are ant lion traps. Needless to say, my morning run was delayed as I explored the area. I never saw or heard another person. What a beautiful morning!

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