Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rescue Me

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous this week. I was a little mad at myself for wasting a perfectly good day yesterday cleaning a cupboard, so I was determined to get out and enjoy the yard today. (I'm pretty happy about the results of the cleaning, though.) Everything is in bloom and it's so gorgeous! I mentioned a while ago that our yard was part of a study of diversity in yards with native plants. Some days the researchers come and count bees, other days they count butterflies. Today they had the unenviable task of counting all the flowers. It was pretty funny to be outside with them and listen to the mad clicking of their hand held counters as they counted the profusion of Carolina Petunia, Powder Puff  and Cherokee Bean blossoms.

Powder Puff (Mimosa strigillosa)

Cherokee Bean (Erythrina herbaceae)

So Many Blooms! (Note insect trap by pole and the people counting by the fence) 

Each year when the yard gets growing, I start seeing plants that I want to move around. It's hard to envision them when everything is small and dormant and easier to move, so I always end up doing it in the heat when they're big and awkward. Also, my idea of what I want the yard to look like changes every year. This year I'm striving for a more planned look. It tends to get kind of crazy out there. I had a list of things to move today, and it included starting a new bed of Woodland Poppy Mallow. These are gorgeous hot pink flowers that I first encountered walking in San Felasco Hammock State Park. I absolutely love them and was thrilled when I was asked to help re-locate some from a piece of land that was going to become a sub-division. I got to take home a few plants and now have a happy bed of them by our front door. Today I wanted to start another bed on the other side of the door.
Happy Bed of Woodland Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe palaver)
I dug up the plants that I wanted to move and started lifting flower pots out of the way, when suddenly I saw a tiny little snake under one of the dishes! It was a Pine Woods Snake (Rhadinaea flavilata), and is one of two varieties of snakes that I've seen in our yard. (The other was a yellow rat snake that I saw once in the wood pile.) I've seen them a few different times and in a few places around the house, so I think we have more than one. From what I can read, Pine Woods Snakes are somewhat uncommon and are usually found in moist pine flatwoods. That we have them around our house in downtown Gainesville is pretty special to me. They are considered to be non-venomous and do not bite people. Apparently do have a mild (to people) venom in their rear fangs, but only to kill their small insect, lizard and frog prey. They are very shy. They prefer to hide under flower pots, mulch and rocks. When I saw this little one, I hurried inside and got the camera. Then I lifted the pot again and scooped up the snake to hold it and get a better look. It struggled to get away for a few seconds and then it curled around my hand. What a beautiful animal! It was so smooth and soft. I could see it breathing hard, so I just looked and photographed for a few minutes. I was so excited that my hand was shaking a little. The snake was excited, too, because it musked me. After a bit, I gently put it back and it slid into the bark. I think it will stay around the same area because I could see its tail sticking out of the mulch for 10-15 minutes after I released it. Also, I found a Pine Woods Snake in this same spot several years ago. The musk made my hand smell awful, so I washed up with some super smelly, all natural, patchouli scented hand soap. I bought it the other day and the patchouli was so strong that I couldn't bear to be around myself. But it's perfect for covering up snake musk.

Pine Woods Snake Curled Under the Dish (See the leaf and pine needle for scale)

Beautiful Little Pine Woods Snake
So I'm happy with the new location of the rescued Poppy Mallow, and I'm pretty sure the snake will stick around. Especially if I remember to water the Poppy Mallow, which will keep the pine bark nice and damp, and promise not to pick it up any more.


  1. I loved your yard. I live in Englewood fl and trying to transform my yard to turf free with Florida native groundcover and bird and butterfly attracting plants. Anita

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Anita. I hope you have hooked up with your local Florida native plant society chapter. They are a wealth of knowledge about finding the right plant for the right place. Happy gardening!