Sea Grapes

Discovered this chunk of green alga on my beach a couple weeks back. Its diminutive size and odd shapes warranted a photo, if only so I could identify it. That process took longer than it should have but, as usual, I learned something new.

Meet the Sea Grape (Caulerpa racemosa), an edible seaweed that favors shallow seas around the world. In some areas it is considered invasive, though this is the first time I’ve encountered it around here.

Since they are nutrient rich I suppose we should all eat up!

Jingled All the Way

Last night I joined my friends Peggy and Katie (and her dog Reef) for the Jingle Bell Run in downtown St. Pete. The 5k, a fundraiser for veterans causes, is now in its 39th year and these folks know how to put on an event!

They encouraged fun outfits, handed out jingle bell bracelets and glow necklaces, surprised us with snow (fake, of course), and had live bands scattered along the route to keep our spirits bright. The city’s colorful holiday decorations added to the overall cheer.

I admit, my feet were a bit sore by the end (having also walked a few miles earlier that day with my friend Amber), but it was a wonderful way to spend the evening. Jingle on!

A Moveable Feast

While we were wandering Perico Preserve last weekend, the tide changed. As the water started flowing back into the bay, the fish began to feed. In this video there are several species of fingerlings nibbling on an algae ball as it is rolled along by the current. Sorry about the noise, low-flying aircraft.

The mullet in the video below emerged from the deeper part of the bay and crammed into the shallow, narrow neck of this inlet. Talk about an easy meal, all they had to do was open their mouths and the nutrient rich water flowed in!

Meet the Ancient Coontie

The sunny afternoon weather was perfect for a stroll around Perico Preserve last weekend. The bright red fruit of this smallish plant caught our attention. After a bit of research I discovered the origin of its local name, Coontie (Zamia integrifolia).

The Seminole people, who called it conti hateka (for white root or white bread), utilized the starch from the stem and root of the plant to make a type of bread. They had to harvest this resource carefully as it contains cycasin, a known neurotoxin.

Also commonly called Florida Arrowroot and Wild Sago, it is the only cycad native to North America. Often mistaken for a fern or even a palm, it is found throughout Florida, southern Georgia, and the Caribbean. As a gymnosperm it is one of the oldest plant forms, with fossils dating back 280 million years.

What a fun little find!