Berries WN 7-11-19 feat

Summer’s fruit, berries and nuts

July 11, 2019

 

North Florida summer

In case it has escaped anyone’s attention, July 2019 is turning out to be a hot and humid month. This trend is not a surprise for anyone who has lived in Wakulla County for at least twelve months, but there are many new residents to the county who are having their first experience with a north Florida summer.

For many humans this is the time to appreciate the existence of air conditioned interiors. With the exception of commutes to and from work or a beach visit, it is a great time to be in artificially cooled air.

The creatures and plants which populate the woods, swamps and pastures of Wakulla County have few cares about the elevated thermometer readings. It is life as usual and all are preparing in their own way for the inevitable dormant season with short days, reduced food, and lower temperatures a few months in the future.

Ideal growing environment

Summer’s fruit, berries and nuts are in full production. Yaupons, sparkleberries, dogwoods, pines, persimmons, oaks, hickories and many more have a nutritional offering for any wild creature with space in their stomach or cheeks.

Berries WN 7-11-19 insert

Beautyberries are in bloom currently. While attractive now, their yield of berries will be essential in six months. Photo by: Les Harrison

The summer’s heat and rain provide an ideal growing environment for the plants which support the animals now and in the months to come. Those blooms currently visible will be the life-sustaining nuts, dried fruit and seed of winter.

Additionally, the plants and trees provide this cornucopia as a way to prepare their progeny for the next growing season.  Most of their output is consumed by birds, mammals and insect, but a small percentage of seed will survive to expand the species range and replace winter losses.

Distinctive color and shape

Bright orange persimmons, red dogwood and holly berries, and blue beautyberries use their distinctive color and shape to attract birds and animals.  In exchange for a free meal, some of the seed in the fruit is relocated and provided with a convenient fertilizer package.

Wakulla County’s insect are diligently expanding their numbers during this period of plenty.  While most will not survive the first frost, a percentage of their eggs persist and pupa will emerge in the spring of 2020

Butterflies are the popular insect

Likely the most popular summer insects are butterflies.  The commonly known species are relatively large and brightly colored, but many are small and unembellished without easily recognized features.

2019 is turning out to be a good summer for butterflies in Wakulla County.   The ample rains provided excellent forage for the caterpillar phase of their life cycle, though there are many complaints about damage to shrubs and gardens.

Highly visible butterflies

Some highly visible butterflies, such as the monarchs and cloudless sulphurs, are taking advantage of the ample feedstock foliage, but will migrate south to warmer latitudes in autumn.  Many others will remain in Wakulla County laying their eggs in the most hospitable environment possible.

Under the plentiful foliage conditions of 2019, butterflies produce several generations during the warm season.  Eggs laid late in the year will enter a dormant phase with the onset of cooler weather, but emerge the following spring with the expectations of ample vegetation.

The only certainty about next summer’s weather, and the resulting plant growth, is that air conditioning will be essential for most of the human population.

To learn more about hot summers in Wakulla County, contact the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu 

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating

 

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