Epiphytes, more commonly known as air plants, are any plants that attach themselves to other plants, using them for support but not being parasitic upon them. Most have roots which they use to attach themselves and to collect water from the humid environment. They obtain nourishment from airborne particles and by leaching excess chemicals from the supporting trees.
2. ANOLES AND SKINKS
Before going any further down this boardwalk, take a look at the hand rails, the lower railing and the posts. On them, you may find some scaly creatures you would call lizards. If you do not see any, walk down the boardwalk slowly and one may jump off the railing or post and scurry off ahead of you. Most commonly seen here is the Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei sagrei). Another anole sometimes found here is the native, Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis).
3. THE CLASSROOM
This building has been home to several environmental/educational groups. Built in the 1990’s, the classroom building is a multipurpose room that includes a restroom, small kitchen area (refrigerator, microwave oven and sink), audio/visual equipment and a combination drinking fountain/water bottle re-filler station. It can be rented out very reasonably for meetings, weddings, birthday parties and showers.
4. BUTTERFLY GARDEN & TURTLE POND
The Butterfly Garden is designed to attract a variety of Florida butterflies. Some plants are placed here for the nectar that is a primary food source for many butterfly species. Other plants will become a nursery for caterpillars after they hatch out of their eggs. Situated just north of the Classroom is a small turtle pond containing a variety of aquatic turtles. Some of these turtles were given to the park by folks no longer able to care for them.
5. WATER TOWER
Moccasin Lake Nature Park utilizes the power of the wind to provide non-potable (untreated) water. The large windmill atop this 55' tower will begin to turn in a 7 mph wind, driving a piston pump which draws water from a 12' well located below the tower. Each cycle of the pump transfers about one quart of water into the large (2400gallon) water storage tank. The height of the tank provides the pressure for the park's water lines. This non-potable water is used for general irrigation.
6. BIRD BLINDS
Moccasin Lake is lucky enough to have 2 bird blinds. One is located behind the Energy Tower (#5 on your map). The other is located between the Dead Tree (#8) and Swamp Hardwood (#9) on the Cypress Trail, overlooking Moccasin Lake. These structures provide a vantage point to see animals, especially birds, by not disturbing them too much. Bring your camera, a pair of binoculars and a little patience and you will certainly see some beautiful creatures that make Moccasin Lake their home.
The creek running under the boardwalk is the Northeast Branch of Alligator Creek and its floodplain creates the wetland areas of the Nature Park. There are many unique features to a wetland and many benefits. Wetlands provide a home for a multitude of fish, frogs, turtles, insects, birds and reptiles, most of which can only survive in this type of surrounding.
8. DEAD TREE
After a tree dies, it passes through a number of stages before it decays completely and becomes part of the soil. While still standing, though dead, it serves as home for a variety of animals. Screech Owls, woodpeckers and squirrels frequently use dead trees as nesting sites. A dead tree may also serve as a home to many insects and as a place of attachment for a variety of plants such as Muscadine Grape, Virginia Creeper, Poison Ivy, epiphytes and different kinds of algae and fungi.
9. SWAMP HARDWOOD
This boardwalk bridges the northern limit of the wetland area created by the Northeast Branch of Alligator Creek's floodplain. This wetland area is a Swamp Hardwood plant community. The swamp hardwood is usually partially flooded throughout the year, most notably in summer. This community is considered fragile as it is dependent upon periodic or regular flooding for survival.
This shelter offers a panoramic view of the Swamp Hardwood community. In all but the winter months, this shelter is also an excellent location to see a number of native spiders. Look along the rafters and posts of the shelter and you may see a jumping spider or a Goldensilk Spider. The jumping spiders are small, grayish and are sometimes referred to as "monkey-faced" spiders. These may be seen most often along the handrails.
11. MOCCASIN LAKE
The Department of Transportation was responsible for the creation of this five-acre lake. In the 1940's, it removed great quantities of dirt to build the U.S. 19 overpass, which crosses the railroad track on the Park's southwest border. This removal created a giant "borrow pit" which became Moccasin Lake. Since that time, the lake has evolved into a well-established aquatic community.
12. AREA IN TRANSITION
All plant life grows in certain areas based on what soil types are needed, the amount of water required and the sunlight available. A plant's environment must meet all those requirements for that plant to survive. Natural environments are constantly changing and if the plant cannot adjust to the change, it will eventually die. With this loss other plants, better adapted to the new environment, will follow. This replacement of one plant community by another is called succession.
If you look at the bark of the Red Maple tree in front of you, you will find clusters of small crust-like light, green plants called lichens. Although each individual segment may appear to be one plant, it is actually two organisms combined. A Lichen is composed of a green algae and a fungus, living together in a close relationship called symbiosis, in which each plant helps the other.
14. OAK HAMMOCK OR UPLAND HARDWOODS
This area constitutes one of the most stable and best developed plant communities. In the line of plant succession, it is considered the final or climax community. The upland hardwoods community can be found on well drained, fairly high elevations. The characteristic tree is the oak, including the broad spreading Live Oak and the Laurel Oak. Many of the oaks here are hybridized (displaying a combination of both tree characteristics) due to the stress from changing soil conditions during the long wet and dry seasons.
15. END OF TRAIL
As you have seen from your walk through the nature park, this area contains a wide and diverse variety of plant and animal habitats. The park exists as a natural oasis completely surrounded by heavily populated and developed areas. As Pinellas County continues to grow, undoubtedly many of the few remaining natural areas will give way to development. Whereas it is important to meet the needs of the people who live, work and play in Pinellas County, it is equally important to set aside some of our natural areas as places in which plants and animals can grow and live relatively undisturbed.