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Get Outdoors . . . Enjoy Nature, Explore Dovefield Road

By Sandra Chafin
Special to The Star

Using our Trail Map as our guide at the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve, we now have visited all the roads or trails – at least on paper – that have Treasure Road as its starting point. Dovefield Road is reached by leaving Treasure Road, traveling Depot Run, taking a little zigzag to find Dovefield Road. 

Dovefield is the favorite of some of the staff and site volunteers

It is certainly worth the effort to go all the way to Dovefield Road, you just need to be aware of how far away it is. 

Making it to Dovefield Road will complete our adventures from the Main Gate to roads leaving Treasure Road. While we might not use Treasure Road as our starting point, we still have 3 gates (and many miles) to go. 

Before we stray too far let’s talk about the pines on the Buffer Preserve some more. A good book to read that will make you want to go out and hug a Longleaf pine is by Janisse Ray titled Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. 

Reminder: The Buffer Preserve was privately owned and was named the Treasure Bay Lodge and Hunting Club. We assume there were doves to hunt at that times, hence the name of the road. There is no hunting allowed on the Preserve now, so the doves have long gone. 

Some of our volunteers and staff like Dovefield Road best of all the roads. There are special plants near Dovefield, so many agree it’s one of the best roads. When in bloom, these flowers are outstanding. Some, most of them, bloom for only a short period of time. 

In your walks at the Preserve, you see lots of pine trees. There are 126 species of pines in the U.S. However, only 7 pines are native to Florida and only 3 grow in the Preserve. 

Of these 7 pines, the Spruce pine, Shortleaf pine, Loblolly pine, and Pond pine do not grow on the Preserve.  The 3 that do grow on the Buffer Preserve are: Slash, Longleaf, and Sand pine. These tall single-trunked evergreen trees will grow in sandy soil, high humidity, and warm to hot temperatures.  

The most common pine in Florida is the Slash pine. Many people see a Slash pine and think it is a Longleaf pine. The Longleaf (Pinus elliottii Engelm) likes sandy, acidic soil and direct sunlight, needing 4 hours of direct sunlight each day. 

The needles of the Slash pine grow in fascicles of 2 and sometimes 3 and are 5 to 12 inches long. 

Eagle enjoying the sights from high in a Longleaf pine on Treasure Road

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill) is slow growing – taking over 300 years to reach maturity and its full height. This southern yellow pine was once the dominant pine in the south. Now it is the second most common – naturally growing pine. Longleaf pines grow to 130 feet tall or even taller. They live the longest of the Florida pines. It takes 100 to 150 years to reach their full size and they may live for 500 years. When they are young, they grow a long taproot which can be 2 to 3 ft. long. Their root system also spreads wide from the trunk and they have “sinker” roots.

The needles of the Longleaf pine are the longest of the pines and each bundle is called a fascicle (fa-suh-kl). There are 3 or sometimes 4 needles in each fascicle. As previously stated, these needles grow from 8 to 18 inches long. 

“I feel a great regard for trees; they represent age and beauty and the miracles of life and growth.”

If you haven’t read the book, listened to the Audiobook, or heard the Author in person – you are missing out on something special. “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” by Janisse Ray is worth the time. The book will make you want to go out and hug a pine tree. One book review says: “a unique combination of memoir and natural history, captures two Souths – the cracker south and the Longleaf south – both vanishing and both worthy of remembrance. 

Sand pine (Pinus clausa) likes the sandy soil and any type of sunlight that Florida offers. There are two types of Sand pine which are the Ocala Sand pine and the Choctawhatchee Sand pine. The next question: How do you tell them apart?

The cones tell us the difference as the Choctawhatchee cones open; the Ocala cones stay closed. That sounds simple enough for us to determine the difference

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. – Chinese proverb

Thanks, this week, go to Site Volunteers – Jeff and Mark and Maureen for help with pictures. A special thanks to Buffer Preserve Manager for allowing me to “explore the Buffer” and write these articles. You are never too old to learn something new, and what a special place to do just that. 

Friends of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves, our Citizen Support Organization, invite you to become a member if you are not already. The new Board President, Linda Palma is excited and anxious to continue the growth experienced since Michael. The Board meets on the Third Thursday of each month. Masks are required and social distancing is practiced however, the group has a lot of plans in the works. You can call 850-229-1787 if you have any questions.