The place I went to today is called John Mahon Nature Park. It is located off of a major street that runs right through the heart of Gainesville. It is on 10 acres, tucked in between a busy medical complex and a blood bank, next to the road. On the way in, you pass a storm water retention pond, where I was greeted by two big frogs. Maybe River Frogs or Pig Frogs--I have a hard time telling. There was a pretty meadow in in the pond area, which will probably be submerged when we get more rain. Lots of dragonflies and butterflies flew around in the sunny area. I walked down the road leading to the actual park and found nice picnic tables and an informative kiosk. Inside the gate, I came to the trail which is a loop through the woods, maybe a half mile long. I walked it twice to make sure I didn't miss anything. (It seemed like a great place for owls, but I didn't see any.)
|Dragonfly Watching Me|
|American Painted Lady on Spanish Needles (Bidens alba)|
|Thick, Dark Woods|
It was thick with trees and pretty dark. An interpretive sign explained that the habitat was once fire dependent upland pine forest, but now that it was surrounded by homes and businesses, burning is no longer possible and the forest had become overgrown with oaks and vines. Another interpretive sign gave information about the responsibilities of living around a nature park, such as cleaning up after pets and controlling invasive exotic species. Unfortunately, many urban nature parks in the area are plagued by invasive exotic plants such as Coral Ardesia, which I saw all along the short trail. Plants escape from landscapes and end up where they do not belong, choking out native vegetation and decreasing the natural diversity of an area.
|Tell-Tale Red Berries of Coral Ardesia|
|Carolina Wren Singing in the Woods|
|Green Dragon Flower (Arisaema dracontium)|
|Trillium (Trillium maculatum)|
|Leaves of Three, Leave it Be! Poison Ivy|
|Big Oak Trunk--Doesn't it Look Like an Animal Paw?|
|Cherry Tree Bark|
|Vine Wrapped Around a Branch|
|Skinks and Their Den|
Off in the distance I could hear people doing construction work on houses nearby. I passed a couple with a baby who were walking their dogs. Otherwise sights and sounds of most of the human activity were absorbed by the trees. It was like stepping out of the city for a moment. I spent less than an hour in the park. Then it was time to leave. Sanctuary in the City.
|Little Snake Shed on Green Briar Vine (Smilax sp.)|