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Everglades National Park, with its array of plant communities—ranging from the pines and palmettos rooted in the pitted limestone bedrock of the park's dry uplands, through the periphyton-based marsh community and the brackish mangrove swamp, to the highly saline waters of Florida Bay—is an amateur botanist's paradise. Many of the park's plants are found nowhere else in the United States. Only here at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula do tropical trees and orchids mingle with oaks and pines.

This book is not intended to be a manual for identification of the Everglades plants. You will need to arm yourself with appropriate field guides to ferns, orchids, aquatic plants, trees, or whatever your special interest may be. The reading list in the appendix suggests a few.

While the park is a mecca for students of plantlife, you must keep one thing in mind: your collecting will be limited to photographs (and, if you're an artist, drawings). No specimens may be removed or disturbed. Fortunately, with today's versatile cameras and high-quality color films you can take home a complete and accurate record of your plant discoveries.

BIRDS AND REPTILES. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Much of our present knowledge of Everglades plantlife has been garnered by amateurs. Much more needs to be accumulated before an environmental management program for the park can be perfected, and serious students of botany are invited to make their data available to the park staff.

As for wild animals, one hardly needs to look for them in this park! Most visitors come here, at least partly, for that reason. And even those not seeking wildlife should be alert to avoid stepping on or running down the slower or less wary creatures. But animal watching is a great pastime, and it pays to learn to do it right. A few suggestions may help you make the most of your experience in Everglades.

A notebook in which to record your observations will help you discover that this park is not just a landscape of grass, water, and trees where a lot of animals happen to live—but a complex, subtropical world of plant-and-animal communities, each distinct and yet dependent upon the others. To gain real understanding of this world you will need certain skills and some good habits. Ability to identify what you see—with the help of good field guides (see reading list) and quite a bit of practice—will make things easier and much more enjoyable.

Knowing where to look for the animals helps; this book and the field guides are useful for this. You'll find that some species are seen only in certain parts of the park, while others roam far and wide. Don't look for the crocodile in the fresh-water glades—nor for the round-tailed muskrat in the mangroves. On the other hand, don't be surprised to see the raccoon or its tracks in almost any part of the park.

Keep in mind that all species in the national parks are protected by law. Most wild animals are harmless as long as they are not molested. If you encounter an animal you aren't sure about, simply keep out of its way; don't try to harm it or drive it off. Always remember that each animal is part of the Everglades community; you cannot disturb it without affecting everything else.

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Last Modified: Sat, Nov 4 2006 10:00:00 pm PST

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