Sunday, February 10, 2008

DeLeon Springs

Nancy and I started our Friday of birding and seeing the "real" Florida (not the commercial, Universal-Disney theme park world) with a visit to DeLeon Springs. Not only did they have a nice, level, paved nature trail for us to warm up on, they have the Old Spanish Sugar Mill with its "make your own pancakes" breakfast.

This is such a terrific idea. An electric griddle takes up most of the center space of each table. They bring you two pitchers of pancake batter, one regular and one of their special 5-grain blend. Also on the table are maple syrup, honey and sorghum molasses.

Any thing else you want - bacon, sausage, eggs - they will prepare in the kitchen and bring out to you. You eat out of metal pie plates. What a trip!

We got there just as they opened at 9 am, and its a good thing we weren't any later. There were already three or four tables seated and by the time we were eating, the rest of the 40 or so seats were filled. When we left, there was a line, and our table was quickly occupied. And this was on a Friday - I can't imagine a Sunday after-church crowd!

Nancy Z. (left) and your blogger
enjoying a pancake breakfast

Next, a stroll around the outside of the picturesque old mill,

including a look at the original wheel that powered the mill in 1832, and which survived two fires that destroyed the building, once in the Second Seminole War of 1835 and again in 1864 during the Civil War. The wheel remained intact throughout these major upheavals in history, but finally had to be replaced in 1998 when it became unstable due to neglect.

We did see some birds here. This is where I caught the Anhinga doing his imitation of a snake, swimming underwater, and catching and swallowing a fish. We also had a few Double-crested Cormorants. The best bird of the day was the Osprey that flew low over my head and perched across the lake. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for such a thrill, and so missed the photo op.

Along the nature trail, we had some interesting flora. Sabal Palm (also called Cabbage Palm) is Florida's state tree. It is one of the native palms, and early Floridians found many uses for this ubiquitous plant. The leaves were, and still are, used to thatch roofs for the Seminole Chickees, and can be woven into hats or baskets. The trunk was used for log houses or cut into small blocks for scrub brushes. The heart, called swamp cabbage, can be cooked or eaten raw, but as this kills the tree, it is now discouraged.

Another unique tree was the Bald Cypress. This individual is 400-500 years old.

Cypress trees live in wetland areas and have "knees" which stick up above the water line around the trunk. It is thought this helps them obtain oxygen during flood conditions.

cypress "knees"

And, of course, every tree is dripping with Spanish moss.

It is an epiphyte (an "air plant") that grows on other plants.

Spanish moss is not parasitic, like ball moss (which I saw, but didn't get a photo of) and so the host plant is not harmed.

Here is another epiphyte, but unfortunately, I don't know it's name.

This epiphtye is called Resurrection Fern.

It was growing all over the tree limbs at DeLeon Springs.

In dry or harsh conditions, the fronds curl up and goes dormant.

When it rains, it comes back to life, hence its name.

A Resurrection Fern can lose 95% of its water content and still survive. Other plants can only lose 10% or so.

Don't know what this fungus was, but it was neat.

Acck! There's a fungus among us!

Azaleas in bloom in January -
must be Florida!


Mary said...

Your photos and stories are a breath of fresh air but I JUST CAN'T GET PASSED THE PANCAKES. I haven't had pancakes in a year. Or maybe a few years. I so miss pancakes. I'm having PANCAKES for dinner one night this week!

ncmountainwoman said...

Aren't we awful? You write a great blog with tremendous pictures and we focus on the pancakes!

What a great idea. In so many places, the pancakes seem to have sat in the oven while the rest of the food was prepared. I'm even thinking of getting another griddle and let the family fix their own pancakes at the bar while I make the other fixins.

Susan Gets Native said...

I dig all the plant life.
When is Spring gonna be here????

Kathy said...

Florida has such interesting plants. Thank you for sharing their pictures. I've never heard of a restaurant letting people make their own pancakes, but it sounds like a wonderful idea for everyone getting their pancakes fresh off the grill, just the way they like them.