Learn about the species found along the Treasure Coast and at the ELC.
Written by: William Briggs
The Beauty Berry, also know as American Mulberry or Callicarpa Americana, and also called French Mulberry, is one of the most easily recognizable native Florida plants at the Environmental Learning Center. The bright clusters of shiny purple or white fruit, small berries, and long arching yellow-green branches make it stand out amongst the ELC flora.
The American Mulberry is a perennial plant and is classified as a shrub. The fruit type is a Drupe which is a fruit with a skin or exocarp, fleshy mesocarp and a hardened endocarp with a seed inside. The shrubs grows from 3 to 6 feet in height and from 4 to 6 feet wide. When the plants are younger the smooth bark is reddish brown and turn to a light brown in older plants. The small flowers of the American Mulberry are in dense pink clusters at the base of the leaves.
The shrub is found in wetlands, coastal and other woodlands, edges of swamps and bottom lands. The shrub prefers moist, rich soil that can be sandy, contain clay and be acid-based . The shrub also does well in partially shady light and both cold and hot temperatures. The American Mulberry blooms in May, June and July so be sure to keep an eye out for the bright colors when you visit the ELC this summer!!
Many species of Florida birds and deer eat the small seeds and berries of the American Mulberry. Native American tribes used the roots and leaves to make bath teas for malaria, fevers and rheumatism disorders. The would also make a root tea for drinking to treat stomach disorders. Current uses include mosquito repellant from the leaves to treat other common ailments.
The bald eagle or Haliaeetus leucocephalus is the national bird for the United States. Bald eagles are mostly found in North American and have a strong presence in Florida.
Bald eagles are easily recognizable due to their white heads and tails, brown bodies and hooked yellow bill and strong yellow legs. Although males and females look similar the females are usually larger. The bald eagle can have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet and is approximately 31 inches long.
Bald eagles eat a variety of prey such as rodents and small birds but consume primarily a fish diet making coastal Florida habitats prime nesting locations. Bald eagles mate for life and use the same nest for years, the nests can be up to 6 feet wide and 2-4 feet tall. The bald eagle will lay eggs in December and the female lays 2 or 3 eggs at a time while both parents care for the chicks. Bald eagles have two centers of focus and can see forward and to the side at the same time.
Past and Present
At one time the bald eagle was listed under the US Endangered Species Act and the Florida Endangered or Threatened Species rules but with strict conservation guidelines have seen population growth and are no longer on these lists. The bald eagle is still protected by state and federal law.
Florida has one of the largest concentrations of nesting bald eagles in the US with over 1500 pairs. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has been monitoring the population since 1972. The commission welcomes the public to report new or undocumented bald eagle nests to BaldEagle@MyFWC.com.
The FWC recommends a few tips for eagle watching; Use binoculars or a spotting scope, do not stand directly under a nest, stay at lease 330 feet away from nest, do not make loud or sudden noises, stay in vehicle if possible, do not try to entice eagles to stand or fly, and of course enjoy the majesty of the bald eagles!