Today we took an Air Boat ride in the Everglades south of Naples out of Everglade City. It was amazing and fun. Our captain was very informative and entertaining. We saw many birds and lots of alligators.
The Everglades is extraordinary because of its unique and diverse plants and animals. Over 2,000 different kinds of plants make up the everglades, including the pinelands and the mangroves.
In areas near the coast where the salt water of the gulf and Florida Bay meets the fresh water traveling from Lake Okechobee is realm of the mangrove trees. These trees prefer brackish water (salt & fresh), and are responsible for creation of much new land because their roots and trunks trap organic material in the water.
The everglades are filled with many different types of plants, like palm trees and saw grass, Mangroves, Hardwood Hammocks and the Pinelands. Saw Grass is a very common plant in the everglades that takes up nearly 8 million acres of open, flat prairie.
There are three different mangroves. The red mangroves, found nearest to the shoreline, is well supported on aboveground roots that arch from its trunk and hold the tree into place from the muck below and can start a new tree. The red mangrove is also crucial to the ecosystem as a nursery for the crustaceans and invertebrates. More inland is the black mangroves, which display unusual aerial roots, which stand like cigars in a twisted attention all around the base of the tree. The roots, also called breathing tubes exchange gas with the surrounding air. White mangroves prefer higher ground and grow still farther inland. When the leaves decompress they provide nuitriants to the ground. While on the boat ride the area smelled like sulfur, and we were told it was the methane from the decomp.
The most dangerous species in the everglades are Alligators, Crocodiles, and Panthers. The American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America & can grow 16 feet or longer. Another endangered animal that makes its home in the Everglades is the Florida Panther. The name alligator originated in the Spanish "el lagento"--the lizard.
The plants that are growing on the trees are epiphytes, air plants or bromeliads which live on other plants without harming them. They store water which is used by insects and small animals during the dry season.
Afterwards we drove onto Marco Island to lunch at a quaint nautical restaurant called the Little Bar, overlooking the marina. A curious Egret was walking along the patio outside our window, checking us out as we ate. Then we drove around and viewed some very pricey homes around the area.