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Re: What Charley taught us


Fascinating stuff. I got the impression that most of Florida didn't have very many tall native woodys - wasn't much of the state scrub, of one variety or another?
Cathy
On Saturday, November 13, 2004, at 03:48 PM, james singer wrote:


Boss at the nursery spoke at a Boca Grande Garden Club luncheon last week, so beforehand he had a dry run with his Administrative Assistant and me [Master Gardner]. Was interesting stuff. The club had asked him to evaluate whether native plants or exotic plants had handled the hurricane better. On its way up the middle of the state, Charley had passed just to the east of Boca Grande when it entered Charlotte Harbor, which resulted in much damage on the island.

The first thing to realize, Stephen said, is that Boca Grande was a salt-water swamp before the railroad arrived. Sometime in the mid-20th century an oil tanker port was established on the southern tip of the island and a railroad viaduct was built so the tankers could be off loaded. When the rail line was built, Charlotte Harbor was dredged and the fill was used to build up the island so it would support the rail tracks and necessary buildings to maintain the port.

People who worked for the port planted trees--all exotic [except some were native to the mainland a couple of miles away]--for shade. Then the port closed and some smart folks saw an opportunity to create destination real estate for the wealthy. And that's pretty much what's happened. Lots of exotic trees [coconuts, gumbo limbos, schefflera, white birds. on and on] have been planted to provide a canopy that the true natives of the island [wild coffee, Florida privet, mangroves] could not provide.

So what happened when Charley kissed the island was that this canopy of exotic plants [and native plants, especially mangroves] created a buffer, not unlike the shelter-belts of the midwest, that caused the wind to uplift over most of the structures. Structures--houses and such--that were densely landscaped sustained minimal damage. Structures without landscape barriers sustained major damage. Most of the landscapes were trashed--but a $250,000 landscape is easier to replace than a $4 million house.

Island Jim
Southwest Florida
27.0 N, 82.4 W
Zone 10a
Minimum 30 F [-1 C]

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