Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blog changes...and Popcorn Sedge!

Hello all! As you can probably tell, I am in the midst of making some changes to my blog. Please bare with me as I try and update it. Hopefully I'll find some cool new features to add!

From late March into November, treatment of invasives kicks into high gear on Panther Island. Timing for treatment of an invasive plant can mean its eradication from an area or if I miss the window, I’ll have to make adjustments the following year. An example of an annual that can be eradicated with persistence and good timing is popcorn sedge (Scleria lacustris), a.k.a. Wright’s nutrush.

Above left: Broad view of popcorn sedge Above right: close up of nutlets

In its native range of tropical Africa and the Neotropics, it is relatively rare. How it came to Florida is unknown, but in 1988, it was first recorded in the Upper St. John’s River Basin and has spread since then. Birds and airboats (along with drainage ditches) are likely vectors that are helping in its spread. Freshwater marshes that exhibit seasonal fluctuations in their water levels seem to be most susceptible to infestation by this invader. I typically begin to see popcorn sedge plants start to establish in late spring, early summer when the marshes are dry.

Above: stem of popcorn sedge

It seems to have spread more readily during the drought years as well. As water levels start to come up the young plants are fine and continue to grow and reach
maturity in late summer. From late August into December, nutlets (with seeds inside) can be seen. And true to its name, the nutlets look like popcorn! Ideally,
plants will be treated before reaching maturity and beginning to produce nutlets.
Towards the end of May, I start scanning marshes specifically for this invasive. This year I have tackled this plant in a variety of ways: via ATV, swamp buggy, and on foot using a backpack sprayer. The second round of treatment is completed,
and a third is underway. Today a volunteer and I actually went and removed seed stalks from the plants. I want to see if this rather labor intensive action is beneficial.

It is hot, physically taxing work, but the benefits of keeping the ecosystem healthy far outweigh any discomfort. Plus during treatment I get to interact and see so many neat native plants, insects, and animals!

Above: Photo of marsh where popcorn sedge is being treated

1 comment:

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