Today I’ll be spotlighting the mangrove. If you’ve been to the southern part of the State, you’ve most likely come in contact with this truly Florida native plant. They’re an essential part of the shoreline ecosystem in that region and as common as pine trees are to our area. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates 600,000 acres of mangrove forests in the State’s coastal zone. If your investigative skills are sharp, you may now find pockets or singular mangrove plants in the Panhandle.
Mangroves are woody trees that live along tropical and subtropical shorelines in either marine or brackish tidal waters. Typically, mangrove distribution has been found between latitudes 25 degrees south to 25 degrees north. There are 80 species known worldwide with 3 species (red, black & white) historically calling south Florida home.
However, warmer ocean waters and more frequent and stronger tropical storm activity has helped the spread of mangrove seed or “propagules”. Mangroves have been slowly migrating northward in Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides. From the early 1990’s, researchers began to find mangroves in both Cedar Key and Cape Canaveral.
A multi-state partnership to assess mangrove expansion in the northern Gulf of Mexico began in 2018. Sea Grant Agents from the Panhandle of Florida to Louisiana collaborated to conduct field surveys in chosen coastal wetland and estuary zones. More than 500 plants were recorded over a 3-year period with 188 plants found in Florida. The study also confirmed the abundance of black mangrove species due to their ability to withstand light freezing temperatures over red and white mangroves.
As for their impact on our Panhandle wetland ecosystems, one consistent theme found in the literature is that there are ecological trade-offs for consideration by coastal scientists and natural resource managers (Osland et al, 2022). The benefits of mangroves are broad. Mangroves have been shown to filter runoff, trap carbon in peat, act as a buffer against flooding, improve water quality, and to provide an amazing habitat and food web for invertebrates, fish, terrapins and many bird species. Mangrove range expansion may also affect wetland stability in the face of extreme climatic events and rising sea levels and be used as a shoreline stabilization technique, as taught in the Florida Master Naturalist Program: https://masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/. Mangroves are also a pollinator plant and a favorite of honeybees. Mangrove honey has become a sought-after delicacy for many and a niche crop for south Florida beekeepers. But what about the negatives? Some of the environmental concerns are increased nuisance insects, altered food webs, freeze vulnerability and the economic factor of reduced accesses to fishing areas (Osland et al, 2022).
With mangrove expansion being a relatively new topic, researchers, naturalists and plant enthusiasts alike, will be following the movement with great enthusiasm.
For more information about mangroves, contact your local county extension office.
Osland, M. J., Hughes, A. R., Armitage,R., Scyphers, S. B., Cebrian, J., Swinea, S. H., Shepard, C. C., Allen, M. S., Feher, L. C., Nelson, J. A., O’Brien, C. L., Sanspree, R., Smee, D. L., Snyder, C. M., Stetter, A. P., Stevens, P. W., Swanson, K. M., Williams, L. H., Brush, J. M., … Bardou, R. (2022). The impacts of mangrove range expansion on wetland ecosystem services in the southeastern United States: Current understanding, knowledge gaps, and emerging research needs. Global Change Biology, 28, 3163–3187. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16111
There are many interesting and important ways to volunteer for Extension, such as being a Master Gardener for horticulture, a 4-H volunteer for youth development and even being a Scallop Sitter for natural resources!
We need your help! Become a Scallop Sitter!
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and UF/IFAS Extension – Florida Sea Grant have partnered to implement an innovative community-driven effort to restore scallop populations, and we need your help! “Scallop Sitter” volunteers are trained to assist in Bay, Gulf and Franklin Counties. The goal of the program is to increase scallop populations in our local bays. Scallop sitters help reintroduce scallops into suitable areas from which they have disappeared.
Volunteers manage predator exclusion cages of scallops, which are either placed in the bay or by a dock. The cages provide a safe environment for the scallops to live and reproduce, and in turn repopulate the bays. Volunteers make monthly visits from June until December to their assigned cages where they clean scallops (algal and barnacles can attach), check mortality rate and collect salinity data that helps us determine restoration goals and success in targeted areas.
You’ll receive an invite to our Panhandle Scallop Sitter Facebook Group.
DEADLINE for steps 1 & 2 is May 25th!
3. Pick up your scallops, cage & supplies!
Pickup Information (all times local)
St. George Sound Volunteers
Date: Thursday, June 1st
Time: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: FSU Coastal & Marine Lab (across the canal – see road signage)
3618 US-98, St. Teresa, FL 32358
St. Joseph Bay Volunteers
Date: Thursday, June 8th
Time: 10:00 – 1:00 PM
Location: St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Lodge
3915 State Road 30-A, Port St. Joe, FL 32456
St. Andrew Bay Volunteers
Date: Thursday, June 16th
Time: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Office
2728 E. 14th St., Panama City, FL 32401-5022
*We know issues happen from time to time with scallop populations. It’s a bummer. If you loose a significant amount of scallops early in this year’s program, we will do our best to accommodate our volunteers with a “second wave” scallop stocking event in August. Also, looking for other ways to help our program? We plan to offer cage building workshops in the fall, stay tuned!
The weather is the most important factor determining where certain fruits can be successfully grown. Terms such as chilling requirement and cold hardiness play a major role in both species and variety selection.
Most fruits which grow in the Panhandle are deciduous, meaning that during the winter, they lose their leaves and go through a semi to full dormancy period. This period is a much needed rest and reset for the plant. The cool season actually helps the plant to rebound for another fruiting season and affects how well the plant will yield fruit. This is where the term “chilling hours” comes into play.
Temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit are considered “chilling”. The number of hours below 45 degrees accumulated throughout the winter determines the total amount of chilling hours. Different species of citrus and dooryard fruit, along with different cultivars of these plants differ in the amount of chilling hours need for that all important rest & reset period. Satsuma is a popular fruit trees in our area, as it is by far the most cold hardy citrus. Evidence suggests that the satsuma can survive a temperature as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Figure 1. Mature satsumas ready for harvest.
Credit. Pete Anderson. UF/IFAS Extension.
What happens if the plant doesn’t receive the needed amount of chilling hours? Plant hormones can be disrupted, and both leafing and blooming could be light and come outside of the normal range of the season. So, where do we stand in the Panhandle for overall chilling hours? Typically, we see approximately 500 hours chilling hours. Therefore, its best to plant citrus and dooryard fruit that have the characteristic of needing 500 or less hours for chilling. Please see this informative document on citrus and dooryard fruit varieties: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MG248
Now, on to the term cold hardiness. By definition, this is the plants ability to withstand cool season temperatures without injury. Most tropical fruits cannot tolerate our Panhandle temperatures. Those of us that cut back banana trees every year know this all too well. To check your plant hardiness zone, please see the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/
Before you plant a fruit tree, make sure you understand about its cold hardiness and whether or not it has a chilling requirement. This will both save you money and a headache, in the end. If you’re in doubt about a particular variety, contact your local extension office.
A watering tin and gardening gloves at a home garden.
Spending time gardening in the summer months can be difficult, especially in the Florida Panhandle. The brutally high temperatures and sometimes intensive humidity can make gardening seem unbearable. However, for those brave outdoor enthusiasts, there are always things to do around the homestead when it comes to vegetable gardening, landscape shrubs and lawn care.
Warm season vegetable gardening at this point becomes an uphill battle for some crops, with this being peak time for both insect and disease problems to occur. However, if you planted early enough, much of your harvest is probably in the safe zone. Scouting is key to prevent any major pest damage. Be sure to scout several times a week during these hot, summer days.
Shifting gears, the warm season is a good time to take extra special care of plants such as, azaleas and camellias, while they are establishing flower buds for the next bloom. A lack of water, fertilizer and pest detection and prevention can all certainly play a role in the following season’s flower production. Summer annuals always provide quick and easy color. Remember to feed established annuals with a complete fertilizer and remove faded blooms along the way. Water annuals well during hot, dry periods and control major annual pests to insure good production.
Finally, lawn maintenance is a need for many homeowners during this time of year. Almost all highly successful herbicides are no longer recommended at this point, as many will burn the turfgrass at temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the weed pest and type of turfgrass, most likely the best way to control weeds in your lawn is to wait until cooler fall temperature to treat. Keeping good cultural practices this time of year will help in maintaining a healthy lawn and reduce pest pressure. Be sure to water lawns thoroughly when needed by applying one to three quarters of an inch of water weekly, depending on rainfall. Be sure to keep in mind mower height/frequency, as this is critical in keeping your lawn healthy. As stated in the “Mowing Your Florida Lawn” UF/IFAS EDIS publication, mow often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the blade height is removed per mowing. For example, if your St. Augustinegrass lawn is mowed at a height of 4 inches, it should be mowed before it grows to a height above 6 inches. It is important to always leave as much leaf surface as possible so that photosynthesis can occur, particularly in a grass that is subject to environmental or site stresses.
Unfortunately, it is chinch bug time again. Chinch bugs are prone to feed on St. Augustine lawns during hot, dry weather and may cause serious damage if not controlled. Damage usually occurs as a patch with a brown, dead center and yellowish margin. It seems chinch bugs get the blame, and often unjustly, for everything. Consult with your local county extension office to be sure the damage is not due to other reasons.
For more information, please contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications/websites below:
The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival will be held Saturday, May 21st from 9 am – 4 pm central time at Lake Alice Park in Wewahitchka. This is an exciting event, with your chance to take part in a local treat. Area honey producers will be on hand, selling their honey in a variety of sizes. There will also be food, art & crafts, and live music.
For decades, tupelo honey has been synonymous with Gulf County. The nectar from the tupelo gum tree (Nyssa ogeche), produces some of the finest honey in the world. The common name “tupelo” is derived from language of the Muscogee Nation, also known as the Creek Indian Nation. The meaning of the word is “swamp tree”, as this tree flourishes in areas of wet soils and seasonal flooding. Gulf County is home to one of the largest tupelo forests on earth.
Honeybee visiting tupelo blossoms. Photo Credit: Gulf County Tourist Development Council
The tupelo bloom season lasts from approximately mid-April to the end of May. This is an anxious time for beekeepers. Tupelo blooms are very temperamental and delicate in nature. For this short period, beekeepers hope for little wind or rain and no cold temperatures, as any of these factors can make or break tupelo honey production. Regardless of seasonal impacts, the demand for Gulf County’s tupelo honey never subsides.