PLANTS IN THE RESERVE

American Beauty Berry Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

American Beauty Berry

Callicarpa americana
A member of the Verbenaceae family, the American Beauty Berry is a small lanky bush. It can be recognized by its clusters of shiny purple berries growing in the leaf axils in late Summer. In the Spring it can be recognized by its pale pink flowers. Its pointed leaves grow alternately on tall stems.

Where to Find

Native of Florida, the Southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean basin, this plant is drought-tolerant and can be seen in scrub areas as well as in moist soils. It can undergo full Sun to partial shade and is a great native adition to Floridian gardens, providing year-round beauty and a food source for birds and other wildlife.

Black Mangroves

Avicennia germinans
Black mangroves trunks are dark in color, and their leaves are narrow and pointed, generally dark green above and pale or almost silver below. Clustered flowers are white and fragrant. Black mangroves are able to live where water is stagnant, void of oxygen, or hypersaline (lacking fresh water).

This is, in part, because they have aerating roots called “pneumatophores” which extend upward through the sand where they are exposed to the air at low tide helping to oxygenate the tree. At high tide these root systems provide invaluable shelter to small fish and other aquatic organisms.

Where to Find

Black mangroves usually grow just inland of the shoreline and can grow over 50 feet in height
Black Mangroves Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Coral Bean Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Coral Bean

Erythrina herbacea
Coral Bean is a native plant with arrowhead-shaped leaflets grouped in threes on long stalks. In the winter, most of the leaves fall off and are replaced by bright red flowers. The coral bean blossoms contain nectar and attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. When in bloom, the flowering stalks resemble a string of firecrackers and are easily seen on the grounds of the Environmental Learning Center and Snail Trail.

Coral bean is in the pea family and produces red seeds in long, black pods.

The coral bean blossoms contain nectar and attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. Coral bean is in the pea family and produces red seeds in long, black pods. Growing as a shrub or small tree, coral bean is found in tropical hardwood and oak hammocks throughout the southeastern U.S. The coral bean is a Florida friendly plant and can be very salt-tolerant, making it a great option to grow in coastal landscapes however, the seeds are toxic if consumed.

Where to Find

Growing as a shrub or small tree, coral bean is found in tropical hardwood and oak hammocks throughout the southeastern U.S. The coral bean is a Florida friendly plant and can be very salt-tolerant, making it a great option to grow in coastal landscapes however, the seeds are toxic if consumed.

Prickly Pear

Opuntia spp.
A member of the Cactus family, the Prickly Pear is low and branching. Its segments are flattened, thick and oval-shaped with sharp spines. Its yellow flowers bloom in late spring and summer and it fruits in late summer and early fall. They produce reddish, pulpy fruits. Songbirds and small mammals shelter in their spiny den, surrounded by the plant’s stems and pads, while raccoons and gopher tortoises eat the pads and fruits.

Where to Find

In Rookery Bay Reserve, the Prickly Pear can be seen growing in abundance along Cat Claw Trail and in the scrub.
Prickly Pear Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Red Mangrove Wildlife in Naples | Rookery bay Research Reserve

Red Mangrove

Rhizophora mangle
Red mangroves grow to heights of 40 feet tall. They are known for their congestion of red-colored prop roots that extend down from the trunk and lower branches and anchor the tree in the mud or sand. When submerged at high tide this tangle of roots provides hiding places for fish, and also serves as substrate for a variety of encrusting organisms such as barnacles, oysters, sponges and tunicates which in turn provide food for those fish.

Their propagules (pre-germinated seeds) reach lengths of 12 inches and are dispersed by tidal currents. The baby mangrove seedlings can travel by water for up to one year before finding a suitable location to set down their roots.

Where to Find

Red mangroves are a distinct saltwater woodland that thrives in tidal estuaries and low-energy shorelines throughout the tropics and sub-tropics.

Sea Grape

Coccoloba uvifera
Although not related to cultivated grapes, the sea grape bears red and purple clustered fruit. The edible fruits ripen separately and are an important food source for birds and small mammals. Pioneers traditionally used the berries for jams and jellies, and also found the wood to be a good cooking fuel. Leaves are large, round and leathery, with prominent veins that are often red.

Where to Find

Reaching heights up to 50 feet, sea grapes are common in coastal strands and tropical hardwood hammocks from peninsular Florida to South America.
Sea Grape Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Sea Grass Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Seagrass

Sea grasses are flowering plants that have adapted to life in coastal waters. They rely on water, rather than insects, to carry their pollen from flower to flower. In southwest Florida, because our waters are full of nutrients, tannins and sediment, sea grasses typically grow where the water is shallow enough for sunlight to penetrate (usually four feet or less).

Seagrass beds or meadows provide essential habitat for a vast diversity of marine life. Pinfish, spotted sea trout, gag grouper, and permit are just a few of the commercially and recreationally valuable species that rely on seagrass habitat either as shelter, hiding places, or forage grounds for part or all of their lives. Many species of scallops and shrimp are found only where sea grasses flourish. Manatees and green sea turtles, both Threatened species, eat sea grasses and are generally found not far from their food.

Sea grasses also play an important role in the stability of coastal systems. Sea grasses help maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments with their blades and stabilizing the bottom with their roots. In turn, they require relatively clear water to get energy from the sun for photosynthesis. If the water contains too much turbidity (suspended particles in the water column) the plants won’t get the sunlight that they need, which can result in decline. If the plants die, the surrounding turbidity can increase leading to the loss of other sea grasses nearby.

Where to Find

Many species of sea grasses are found around the world, and five can be found within the Reserve. The most common species is shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) but turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), paddlegrass (Halophila decipiens) and star grass (Halophila engelamannii) are also present.

White Mangrove

Laguncularia racemosa
White mangroves generally lack conspicuous prop roots or pneumatophores. They have ovate, light green leaves that are able to retain water as an adaptation top their intertidal, saltwater habitat. Special glands called “nectarees” can be seen at the base of each leaf.

Year round bloomers, the flowers are greenish white and form clusters on spikes growing from the axdils of the leaves. The propagule (germinated seed) is ribbed and leathery, and sort of shaped like a kernel of corn.

Where to Find

White mangroves typically occupy a zone above the high tide mark and inland of other mangroves, however can also be spotted along the water’s edge.
White Mangroves Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Wild Coffee Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Wild Coffee

Psychotria nervosa
Wild coffee has red berries contrasting with its dark green leaves. Prominent veins give the waxy leaves a textured look. The plant’s white flowers are inconspicuous. Wild coffee typically grows to shrub height. Unlike real coffee plants, it does not produce beans that can be made into coffee. It is an important plant, however, because birds and other animals eat its berries.

Where to Find

Wild coffee is commonly found in tropical hardwood hammocks.

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