Hickey Creek Mitigation Park an Upland Habitat
Hickey Creek Mitigation Park is co-managed by the Lee County Dept. of Parks and Recreation and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. I visited this Lee County Park with the Uplands Florida Master Naturalist class hosted in Lee County. This area features Pineland habitats such as Pine Flatwoods, and Hardwood Hammocks. The plant species seen below are common plants found on the walking trails of the Hickey Creek Mitigation Park. During this trip we experience periods of rain which made it somewhat easier to identify the various plant species. After a rain it is easier to see the colors of the leaves, flowers, and berries found in this pineland area.
Salt bush is a native plant of Florida. This plant species has male and female types. You can tell the difference in the color of the flowers. The Male has yellow flowers and the Female has white flowers.
Walking along the trail I noticed something that resembled the female salt bush. There were some differences though, first I noticed that the flowers were grouped together in a different pattern. Also the salt bush grows independently, the other plant I noticed grows like a vine. This weed rests on other plants like the Saw Palmetto. Hemp weed is a native plant however there is a similar looking species that is invasive.
Hemp Weed Photo
Saw Palmetto vs Cabbage Palm
Florida’s state tree is the Cabbage Palm. You can find this palm tree in almost every habitat in Florida. That includes upland, wetland and coastal environments. The Saw Palmetto looks very similar however there are distinct characteristics to tell these two trees apart. The photo displayed shows saw palmetto and slash pines. This area is referred to as an open pine flatwood environment. This area can also be referred to as a disturbed prairie. Due to location this area has not experience a controlled burned in many years. Fire is very important to the overall health of a Pine Flatwood Upland Habitat.
Facts about the Saw Palmetto
1. The saw palmetto grows underground. This protects the tree from natural disturbances such as fire.
2. Leaves are arranged in a Palmatte pattern.
3. The stem of the Saw Palmetto has Saw-like Teeth. Unlike the smooth stem of the cabbage palm.
4. There is difference in hight as the saw palmetto grows to about 8 ft max. The cabbage palm can grow up to 80 ft! One must rely on other difference when the trees are young.
5. Saw palmetto Burns green & hot in about 20 mins.
Pine Flatwoods an Upland Habitat
Pine Flatwoods cover most of Florida’s land area. These upland habitats occur throughout the southeastern coastal plain. South Florida Pine Flatwoods are dominated by the Slash Pine (P. Elliottii). These areas feature an open canopy and low-growing understory. Flatwoods depend on fire to keep the overstory open, and prevent overgrowth in the understory. Fire also prevents hardwoods from growing in these environments.
Hog plum grows in Pine Flatwood upland habitats. They have yellow leaves and editable fruit. The branches feature a spindle twist to them.
Hardwood Upland Habitats
Hardwoods are described as broadleaf trees, these species include oaks, maple, walnut and hickory. Hardwood areas are categorized by elevation, climate and hydrological conditions. A hardwood hammock is an area higher in elevation than its wetter surroundings. The Hickey Creek Regional Park featured several areas of hardwood hammock next to the Hickey Creek. This land area consisted of laurel oaks, saw palmetto, cabbage palm, and live oaks.
General Facts About Oak Trees in Upland Habitats
1. Oak Leaves are located at the end of branches.
2. Two most common live & laurel
3. Live oaks have a curl on the edge of leaves.
4. Laurel oaks have a lighter underside
Transition Zones are areas that include characteristics of more than one habitat. At Hickey Creek Mitigation Park there’s an area by Hickey Creek that includes features of wetlands, and hardwood hammocks. This area also abuts a Pine Flatwood environment. The Pine Flatwood Environment is a buffer to the watershed. All water that flows into Hickey Creek enters the watershed and flows to other wetland and coastal environments. Ensuring a clean environment in the uplands allows for cleaner water to enter the watershed.
Health of the uplands effected by water table
Free Guided Walking Trail
Free Guided Walking Trail is offered on the 1st Tuesday every month starting at 9 AM. This is 90 minute guided walk through the Hickey Creek Mitigation Park. This guided walking tour is offered from Sept-May. The only fee is for parking at this Lee County location. The parking fee is $1/hr and only cash is accepted.