Guest editorial: GICIA offers guided walks in private areas

March 20, 2015
By BBadmin7502

butterfly_orchid_Encyclia_tampensisDoes the idea of a guided tour through a quiet, beautiful restored parcel of GICIA Land Conservancy Property sound nice? How about the chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive and rarely seen mangrove cuckoo? On Friday, March 27, and Saturday, April 25, GICIA is offering guided tours through one of its conservancy parcels that is not normally open to the public.

The tour will move along a shell path through a five-acre parcel not generally accessible to the public. This parcel has been fully restored and is a prime example of a tropical hardwood hammock that would normally be found on South Florida’s barrier islands.

Certified arborist and GICIA consultant Rick Joyce will guide the tours. He will point out the various species of native plants and talk about GICIA’s exciting native orchid restoration efforts.

While on site the small group – tours will be limited to the first 20 GICIA members who sign up – will hear about our restoration efforts while learning about native plants. If you’re not a member and still want to go, stop by the GICIA Office in Room #8 of the Boca Grande Community Center.

Before Hurricane Charley this site was overgrown with Australian pine trees. During that storm in 2004 the massive, shallow rooted, invasive exotic pines were toppled creating a site that was nearly inaccessible. In 2010, the GICIA board of directors approved a massive restoration effort of this five-acre parcel. First, the Australian pines were removed and then a tropical hardwood hammock was created using a native plant palette which included canopy trees and palms, and shrubs and groundcovers were installed.

The most exciting phase of this project, by far, was our effort to re-establish native butterfly orchids on this GICIA-owned conservation tract located in Boca Grande. Once a fairly common epiphytical (growing on trees, not on the ground) orchid in South and Central Florida, the beautiful butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis) has been illegally harvested and hurt by cold weather which has resulted in severely reduced numbers in the wild. In fact, there are so few remaining they are now listed as a state protected species. After a tough start, the orchid restoration project is now considered a success. The new plants showed significant blooms last summer (see in picture), which indicates happy, healthy plants.

This is a terrific opportunity to experience GICIA’s conservation efforts, learn about the restoration of these important parcels and possibly get a glimpse of the secretive mangrove cuckoo. Call the GICIA Office at 964-2667 to sign up. Spots are filling quickly and tours are limited to the first 20 people.