View this video taken today to view our Kayak Launch area! Bring your NON-motorized vessels and launch from our site for free.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Friday, May 18, 2012
Many guests and volunteers have been asking for more information on the plants we have onsite here at Mound House. Luckily, Parke Lewis has been cataloging our plants for the last few months. Similar to the "Creature Features", he writes a brief summay each week that features one plant on site. To stay up to date, please look under the "Plants in Profile" tab to the left! You can find what he has written to date below:
#11 - CASSIA TREE (Cassia fistula)
As is often the case on the old homesteads here in Florida, the Mound House was built long before a pharmacy could be found on the island , and so some of the beautiful landscaping trees found at our Mound House serve not only as decoration ,but at one time served as an important source of medicine. Such is the case with the cassia tree. Our cassia is found just as you arrive on the property and overlooks the parking lot. The dazzling yellow flowers appear as the branches are bare and just before new leaves emerge. The distinctive seed pods are over 2 feet long.
A native to India and the Amazon, the cassia has been used in traditional medicine to treat a vast array of ailments from, tumors to tuberculosis , malaria and ulcers, syphilis, convulsions, leprosy and rheumatism.
Modern laboratory studies and clinical research do indeed find that cassia is an effective antioxidant, antibacterial, laxative, liver protective, anti-tumorous ,liver protective pain reliever, and fever reducer.
#10 - LANTANA (Lantana camara)
This beautiful and useful plant can be found right outside our office door. The orange and yellow flowers serve as an exquisite landscaping and are a favorite of our butterflies here at Mound House. The flowers of the lantana vary from white to red to orange and provide an easily maintained landscaping on the shell mound. But lantana can also serve an even more important purpose, as mosquito repellant. In an experiment conducted by the Malaria Research Center in India, an application of lantana flower extract to the skin provided 95% protection against mosquito bites for up to 4 hours, and with no adverse effects to humans.
#9 - MARLBERRY (Ardisia escallonioides)
March is the season for Marlberry, and these shrubs can be found throughout the Mound House site heavy with dark berries that bend its limbs toward the ground. They can be found growing in the shade of our cabbage palms, and buttonwoods amongst our other coastal strand vegetation. Native to southwest Florida and the Keys, the Marlberry has an edible dark fruit that is rather tart and acidic, but palatable. It is also a favorite of birds and wildlife. Native Americans in south Florida called marlberry, the “ tobacco seasoning tree” because they mixed its leaves with their tobacco to make it go further.
#8 - Pineapple (Ananas comosus )
Discovered on the island of Guadeloupe by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the New World in 1493, the pineapple first found its way to our shores in the 17th century ,when it was brought over from the Caribbean by European colonists. Given its exotic heritage and difficulty of procurement, the pineapple was considered a rare and significant gift when provided to guests. Accounts of New England sea captains returning from voyages to the Pacific or Caribbean placing a pineapple outside their homes as a symbol of a safe return testify to this fruits special place in our culture. Furthermore, the pineapple has a long history of being offered as the crowning piece in large displays of food and was used frequently in the 18th and 19th centuries to decorate bed posts, tablecloths, napkins and anything made to extend hospitality and welcome.
The pineapples growing at Mound House are the historic “ Florida pineapple”, a smaller variety which was commercially grown in great quantities in Florida until the 1930’s when commercial production shifted to Cuba and Hawaii.
#7 - CANNA LILY (Cannaceae sp.)
The canna is actually not a true lily and is actually in the same plant family as gingers and bannanas. The canna lilies have a large attractive foliage and beautiful flowers that are a favorite of gardeners throughout the tropics. Cana is a native of the Americas and is now found distributed throughout the worlds warmer climates. More importantly, canna is one of the world’s most important agricultural plants and serves as an excellent starch source. In Asia, the canna is used to produce cellophane noodles. The seeds are used in beads and jewelery, and also can be turned into a source of purple dye.The smoke from the burning leaves serves as an effective insect repellant.
More recently, the canna is planted in wetlands and shallow retention areas or ditches to serve as a natural filtration system to capture heavy metals, toxic organic compounds and even radioactive elements.
#6 - SEVEN YEAR APPLE (Casasia clustifolia)
This is one of botany’s more misleading plant names. The seven year apple does not take seven years for its fruit to mature and it is not even an apple. The fruit is hard like a small pear and takes an entire year to mature. This small, tough tree grows along the coastline and is well adapted to salty conditions and can grow just inland from the mangrove fringe, just as it does here at Mound House. The fruit of the seven year apple was eaten by indigenous peoples as well as early settlers here in Florida. But ,the fruit is very seedy. Also a favorite food of the mockingbird ,our state bird. These dramatic song birds will descend on the ripe fruit and hollow it out ,leaving only the dead skin hanging in the tree. The delicate cluster of white flowers have a wonderful fragrance , making this tree an attractive landscape choice.
#5 - FLORIDA PRIVET (Forestiera segregata)
The privets are members of the olive family and this variety is often referred to as the wild olive or ink bush. This is a common plant found in coastal hammocks and is resistant to salt spray and alkaline soils ,both of which are prevalent here at Mound House. As an interesting aside, the soils on the Mound House property are alkaline due to the shells on the property which, or course, make up the mound. Our wild olives are found just inland from the mangrove fringe around the perimeter of the site. Wild olive are often used as native landscaping on coastal areas because of its ease of care ,attractiveness and appeal to wildlife.
The fruit of the wild olive is a small blue to purple berry about the size of a pea that is a favorite of birds, and can be used to garnish “ Tini Martinis”, an island favorite.
#4 - BEAUTYBERRY (Callicarpa sp.)
The two most common species of beautyberry in Florida are the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) which has a distinct reddish berry that grows in clusters at the leaf base on the stem, and the purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) which ,of course, has a purple berry and is a more compact shrub. Beautyberry is found in old growth forests and pine flatwoods within the interior of Florida as well as on coastal strand hammocks and shell mounds. The beautyberry was harvested and eaten by the Calusa and other native American tribes in Florida as well as by pioneer settlers.
It is a favorite of wildlife including songbirds, raccoons and deer and serves as a favorite out at the Mound House of our birds and particularly during the winter when numerous species make their way south to spend the cold months in coastal Florida.
Look for the bright red and purple berries in late fall and winter, growing amongst the native coastal strand vegetation on site.
#3 - Horseradish Tree (Moringa oleifera)
Native to West Asia, the horseradish tree or “moringa” as it is also known is now well established throughout the tropical Americas. Packed with vitamins, its leaves offer more calcium than milk and more vitamin C than oranges! The tree gets its name because the roots are used as a tasty substitute for horseradish ,the leaves, seeds and seedpods are served in numerous dishes and are a staple of Indian and South American cuisine. The moringa is commonly kept in those parts of the world as a hedged “door yard” plant and a living fence. The tree is drought resistant , hardy and is also planted to prevent erosion and to provide a food source and cash crop in areas of poor soil. Most interestingly, the horseradish tree has a natural chemical composition that gives it a slight positive electric charge. Silt ,bacteria and other pollutants suspended in water have a slightly negative charge. As such, a single seed can purify a gallon of water, and stripped limbs are placed in polluted wells to help purify drinking water.
#2 - ANNATTO (Bixa orellana)
Also known as the “lipstick tree” ,this native of the Amazon produces the vibrant orangish red coloring found in many traditional dishes as well as in the distinctive body paint and vibrant red and orange hair dyes of many Central and South American Indians. It is used to color fabric and as a healthy natural source of food coloring. Its uses as a natural coloring in cosmetics has given rise to its current nickname . For traditional medicinal purposes, the annatto is used to treat dysentery, as an antiseptic and to reduce fever. The seed pods are green and covered in spiky but soft flexible spines that are harmless. When opened, the pod reveals rows of tiny red seeds with a brightly pigmented coating.
Each week, Parke will write a quick summary of a special creature typically found during his Guided Beachwalk's on Wednesday mornings. Please check under the "Creature Features" tab to the left to stay updated! Below is what he has written so far:
Finding a glistening piece of sea pork washed ashore may leave you thinking you’ve found just a piece of some other creature, resembling a piece of waterlogged pork or fatback (yummy!) This “blob” is actually a living creature, a very complex colony composed of thousands of tiny zooids wrapped in a cellulose housing, each in its own tiny sack like body. This celluloid housing is called a “ tunic” and protects the colony. You will find two external openings near each other that serve to circulate sea water through the sea pork in which nutrients are filtered out as food . Sea pork lives on the bottom and attaches itself to rocks, pilings, jetties or seaweed and is washed ashore by storms and high surf. Bottom feeders such as skates, and even some species of sharks, are known to eat sea pork. There are over 1,000 species of Ascidians worldwide, with numerous species of varying colors including red, yellow ,white , greenish-blue, and even purple appearing on our shores.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
NEW MOUND HOUSE RESIDENTS
A pair of pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) has taken up residence at Mound House and have been seen dining on insects throughout the property, particularly at our jacaranda by the underground exhibit and our ancient strangler fig. In fact, they may even be building a nest cavity somewhere on site, so keep an eye out, its nesting season.
The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in the United States. They are mainly black with a red crest with distinctive white cheeks and white stripes on the throat. They feed mainly on insects, but also dine on fruits and berries. These woodpeckers like mature forests and wooded parks, such as our Mound House site. Theses woodpeckers carve out a rectangular hole in trees, searching for insects and for nest building. Pileated woodpeckers serve an important function for other birds. The abandoned nests and foraging cavities of woodpeckers serve as homes for many species of forest song birds.
|Typical Pileated Woodpecker|
|Mound House Pileated Woodpecker|
STORIES BENEATH OUR FEET
UNDERGROUND EXHIBIT ARTIFACTS
Visitors to the underground exhibit have an opportunity to view ,and even hold, some of the Calusa artifact replicas that have been discovered by archaeologists. These replicas help visitors better understand the art and technical skill of the Calusa. Some of the items on display in our underground exhibit are shown below:
Lightning Whelk Gorget
A gorget with a cross in the center was discovered at the Key Marco site. It is estimated to have been made between 1200-1500 AD. Gorgets were carved from the penultimate whorl of the lightning whelk and were used as ornaments and trade goods by the Calusa.
This decorated hairpin was modeled after a deer bone hairpin discovered Hontoon Island site in Volusia County and was estimated to have been manufactured around 1200-1300 AD. Florida Indians ,including the Calusa, were known for their intricate hair decorations which may have been used as symbols to display status and authority. Or in this case, keep the hair out of your eyes.
Decorated Turtle Carapace
In this instance the square “scute” of a marine turtle’s shell has been decorated with a carved pair of dolphins. This artifact may also have been used as a small mesh net gauge,used to set the mesh diameter when making nets. This artifact was discovered at the Key Marco site as well.
This painted board depicting a pileated woodpecker was discovered at the Key Marco site. It is interesting to note that pileated woodpeckers are often observed on the Mound House property. Wooden artifacts such as this one were discovered at the Key Marco site preserved in the anaerobic muck of an ancient pond. Archaeologists speculate that the wide variety of artifacts discovered in this muck layer may have been the result of a hurricane sweeping through the Calusa village.
Monday, May 7, 2012
The archaeological record at Mound House shows us that long after the last Calusa had inhabited this location, this site was utilized by 18th and early 19th century Cuban fishermen as a “fishing rancho”, one of many common to the bays and coastal estuaries of southwest Florida and, as was typically the case, located on top of an old Calusa Mound. In contrast to the difficult and less productive deepwater fishing off the north coast of Cuba, the productive shallow water fishing found here made it worth the 200 hundred mile sail to the busy port city of Havana where dried and salted fish were sold. As such, the fishing rancho was a seasonal base camp and in general, the fishing season ran from September into March with some fishermen and their families staying on all year. Many of these fisherfolk were of Spanish descent, while others were of Indian or Spanish- Indian descent, and were known as “Spanish Indians”. When Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, life changed irrevocably for these fishermen. During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the United States military, believing that these ranchos were supplying and arming the Seminoles, forcibly ended these fishing operations. Several military leaders were certain that the Spanish Indians were actually Seminoles and had assisted in the war against the Americans. As such, the Indians of Southwest Florida were to be forcibly removed.
As with most things, the reality down here on the wild frontier may have been somewhat different as we see below:
The following document contains excerpts from a story edited by James Covington
A PETITION FROM SOME LATIN-AMERICAN FISHERMEN; 1838
One of the best clues as to the background and life of the Cuban fishermen here in Southwest Florida and early relations between Cuba and the United States were discovered in the records of the Office of Indian Affairs at the National Archives in Washington D.C. This evidence was recorded in a petition from a group of fishermen to the Secretary of War Joel Poinsett.
“To the honorable Joel Poinsett, Secretary of War:
The memorial of the undersigned respectfully represents that your memorialists were located on the Gulf Coast of the peninsula of Florida as fishermen and seamen at the time of, and long prior to the cessation of the territory to the United States, that it has been a long established custom among the class to which your memorialists belong, and one which was recognized by the Spanish government at Havana as legal to intermarry with the Indian women of the country. Many of the children, offspring of these marriages, were baptized and educated there and recognized as legitimate by the authorities of that city and country. Some of them are now residing there in respectable situations and enjoying all the rights and priviledges of Spanish subjects.
Your memorialists further state that at the change of Flags they became lawful citizens of the United States by virtue of the provisions of the treaty and have since that period exercised the right of suffrage and all other priviledges and immunities of American citizens.
…This order which by a single blow has severed from them their families and blasted at once their happiness and all their prospects in life, your memorialists solemnly believe has been the result of deep and malignant misrepresentations and falsehood contrived by their enemies to wreak their vengeance upon those who refused to join them in the atrocities which they have perpetuated…
That having continued true and faithful to their allegiance and hold themselves at all time in readiness to serve the country in any manner in which their services could be required while those who sought to destroy them have spread ruin and desolation over it, they feel that they have just claims on the protection of the Government for themselves, their wives and children.
They therefore earnestly pray that they may at least be permitted to return to their homes when the Seminoles shall have been removed and the only shadow of a cause for their present position shall cease to exist, but if their prayer is denied, they earnestly entreat that they may be permitted to remove to some other country where heir families can be supported and protected from the vengeance of a people from whom forgiveness is rarely extended.”
Bonificio Crusado Jose Bromudos Domingo Alvarez
Maximo Hernandez Manuel Benitez Jose Suqones
Pedro Felis Felipe Sevilla Iviculas Bara
Gabriel Ferrera Antonio Herrera Felipe Orta
Gregorio Montes de Oca Juan Castohima Peter Weaver
Jose Rudriquez Juan Diego Morales Antonio Carpechamo
Joaquin Caldel Juan Montes de Oca Santos Domingues
A true copy
Lt. 4th Artillery
And so it was, that even way out here on the banks of an estuary in the middle of nowhere, tucked away between the gulf and the mangroves, our fishermen found themselves to be not only pawns in a game of international politics but enemies of the Seminole and the United States government .
Not long after this letter was sent, it was reported in one newspaper account of the Second Seminole War that about 150 Spanish Indians had been removed from Florida.