A year later, July 3, 1998
For the past six months I have been thinking about getting permission from the real estate company representing the property at SR 7 & Okeechobee to organize a Saturday outing for local orchid society members to collect Encyclia tampensis from the remaining piece of wooded land.
Today I have decided to go on my own. The movie theater has been open over a month now and stands where Woody and I photographed the orchids a year ago. The whole strip of land fronting Okeechobee Blvd. has been cleared already. All that remains is 100yds or so frontage on SR 7 that is maybe a quarter-mile deep.
By April of this year the strip of land fronting Okeechobee Blvd. had been cleared.
Greetings from hell. Fires are raging out of control in Flagler, Brevard and Volusia counties 150 miles to the north. The wind has been blowing the smoke our way for the past three days causing the sky to be a milky yellow. It stinks. The temperature has been above 90° F. and broken records for the past three days. The milky sky makes it seem even hotter. It is hard to think about having a holiday celebration when people are being burned out of their homes three hours north of here so I think about my own mercy mission: to collect as many E. tampensis as I can find. I should be able to fill two or three of the pillowcases I have brought with me. Later this month, I will distribute them to the members at our next Orchid Society meeting. It is only a matter of time before these remaining trees become cypress mulch and the orchids along with them.
In January the land was cleared and the theater walls were up. This is where we photographed the E. tampensis a year ago. How many
orchids are in that mountain of mulch ?
To my surprise, the epiphyte is scarcer than I thought and after two hours I have barely filled half of a pillowcase. Most of the plants are small and have recently finished blooming. I have seen many areas where melaleuca has encroached on cypress habitat but usually it has been short, scrub cypress. Today I found an area of forest where the weed had taken over a mature, old growth cypress hammock. The rotten stumps and fallen trunks of the once stately trees had been suffocated by a dense melaleuca forest that out-competed the cypress for light and water. Melaleuca saplings grew out of rotting cypress stumps in a parasitic way. Although the South Florida Water Management district has spent $9 million killing melaleuca, there are still 400,000 acres infested with the weed. This sad scene left me with a lasting impression that I could not help comparing to the relentless march of raging fires to the north.