Knee deep, finding plants in Big Cypress National Preserve

On a recent day in the field, I got to go out with several botanists identifying and learning more of the plants near my University. Big Cypress National Preserve is located directly adjacent to Everglades National Park. However, due to small changes in elevation and geology, much of Big Cypress is vastly different. From the better known Everglades. I have heard it said several times before that, “It should have been Big Cypress National PARK, they got it all mixed around, if you go by shear diversity!”.

At 720,000-acre (2,900 km2) in size, Big Cypress is vast. Unlike the Everglades, there are significantly more human activities in the preserve due to large amounts of hunting, off road vehicles, and many inholdings. This being said, the preserve is still in relatively great shape biologically and some areas are astonishing in their beauty.  I have friends visit me in Florida, and I will skip the everglades and instead take them hiking through sections of flooded cypress domes and seasonal flood plans if the season is right. I take people to the Everglades at night; that way we can find snakes, frogs and other critters I enjoy so much!

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Deep in a cypress stand the plant diversity can be incredible. Everything is covered with green. I swear you can feel the energy all that life around you. When you look down the water is often crystal clear. With such a slow flow rate (the water flows south towards the ocean) it’s like walking inside the fresh water “show tank” behind the register at an upscale aquarium store.

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I feel silly for not taking more pictures underwater. Many beautiful submerged plants such as Utricularia spp., Bacopa carolinana, Potomogeton illioensis and others are very abundant.

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Below: Jason viewing some epiphytic bromeliads and ferns. As you walk around, the fine soil is immediately stirred up, going from clear to soup with each step.

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