Helpful Hopper

I disturbed this Southern Toad’s (Anaxyrus terrestris) daily routine with one of my recent digging projects. I was pleased to discover this nocturnal hopper in my yard since they are known to devour roaches and other nighttime creepy crawlies.

As a true toad it is toothless, covered in warts, and sports two parotoid glands. An effective defense mechanism, the toad can secrete a toxin from these glands that deters predation.

Thankfully for dog owners, the Southern Toad’s poison is not nearly as powerful as that of the non-native Cane Toad (now found throughout Florida) or the Sonoran Desert Toad out west. Years ago, I had to rinse out the mouth of a dog that made the terrible mistake of trying to chew on one, Shelby never did that again!

Welcome to my ‘hood, little one. May you live long and prosper!

Things Are Not Always as They Appear

Met this Eastern Glass LizardĀ (Ophisaurus ventralis) in my backyard a couple days ago. At first glance I presumed it was a small snake, thankfully it let me take a photo before moving under my wood pile. A bit of research and I was surprised to learn this was actually one of the two legless lizard species found here in Florida.

The vertical white bars behind the head differentiate this one from the Slender Glass Lizard. The glass part of the name comes from their ability to break or shatter their tail as needed.

Unlike snakes, legless lizards have moveable eye lids and external ear openings but they lack flexible jaws (which limits the size of their prey). While they can reach lengths up to 42″ this one was relatively small (about 15″) so it probably eats mostly insects. A welcome addition to my yard for sure!

Tiny Two-fer

I discovered this petite, maroon beauty growing along the canal across the street from my house yesterday. The aptly-named Cow Pea (aka Phasey Bean Macroptilium lathyroides) is a high-protein legume commonly used as a forage crop for cattle (added benefit for the farmer, it is also a nitrogen fixer which helps replenish depleted soil).

Native to South and Central America, Cow Pea was introduced to Florida for agricultural use but in 2013 it earned a spot on the state’s invasive species list. This adaptable little plant not only self-pollinates but it can tolerate wet locations, sandy or clay-filled soil as well as salty areas. Another key to its success? Two pounds of Cow Peas contains roughly 119,000 seeds – that’s a lot of potential for spreading!

On the plus side, it is favored by local pollinators, including butterflies which some think the flower resembles.

A Different View

Looking North to Downtown St. Petersburg, FL September 2021

My explorations yesterday led me to Lassing Park in the Old Southeast part of St. Petersburg. This wide swath of green space borders Tampa Bay and serves as a buffer for storm events when tides rise.

While all the hustle and bustle and new high-rise condos are happening downtown, Old Southeast is a quiet, older area with a funky vibe. Established in the 1950s this neighborhood flies under the radar yet the views can’t beat.

Colorful City

I’ve had this mural on my “Things to Do and See” list for months and today I finally took the time to capture it. I love the vibrant paint but be sure to look closely at each of the letters – they contain iconic images from this area (red brick roads, oranges, craft beer, sea turtle, blue water, palm tree on the beach).

St. Petersburg hosts the SHINE Mural Festival every October and since 2015 over 100 murals have been added to the cityscape. Last December I shared a photo of one of the cool murals from the 2020 festival. I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s additions!