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Hiking on Titi Road at the Buffer Preserve

By Sandra Chafin
Special to The Star

So, we have covered the roads leading from Treasure Road on our Trail Map, at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. There are two roads you will not see on the Trail Map – Moccasin and Titi. We are going to talk about one of them -- and why it is named Titi Road. 

Picture doesn’t do Titi blooms justice – come see it next spring.

The other road named Moccasin we might talk about, however; we will not go there. It goes without saying why we will not be going to Moccasin Road – it’s in its name! Seriously, they tell me it’s safe to walk it. I will take their word for it. 

The first time I remember reading about Titi and wondering what it looked like was in The Great Tide (Rubylea Hall). I remember it was hard for the characters to walk through it. Maybe they went through it because it was a shorter route – memory escapes me as to why they went through the Titi stand however, it made me want to know what it looked like. I was excited to see it (2 kinds) in the Preserve. 

Titi (pronounced tie-tie) Road has an interesting shrub and tree on it. While Titi grows elsewhere on the Preserve this road was given the name. Titi might be called Leatherwood or over a dozen other names such as, he-huckleberry, black titi, white titi, red titi, Cyrilla or Swamp titi.  

The Titi Family’s scientific name is Cyrillaceae.  In the reference and field guide, The Trees of Florida, by Gil Nelson, we learn that the family contains a total of only three genera and 13 species worldwide.  

There are two genera of the Cyrillaceae that occur in Florida, both only have one species each, and they both like to live in primarily wet habitats. (Genera is the plural of genus which is a class of items such as a group of plants of animals with similar traits, qualities or features.) 

Blooms of Titi are very pleasing to the eye.

The scientific name for White Titi is Cyrilla (Sir-RIL-uh) recemiflora (ray-see-mih-FLOR-uh, or Swamp Titi. Swamp titi’ s blooms are straight up from its stem and is white or near white. Its blooms reach for the sky, standing straight and tall.   

White Titi – back in the spring

Black titi (Cliftonia monophylla) has yellow seeds and its blooms droop.  

Our continuing series on the Buffer Preserve

Where can you expect to see Titi on your walks? Usually you will find them where there are Longleaf and Slash pines. Titi likes the ecosystem created by those pine trees. 

Sometimes the titi grows so thick in places on the preserve our Environmental Specialists chop it down. It will crowd out other plants and create a place where it is extremely hard to walk through. Rubylea Hall (The Great Tide) must have had firsthand experience with Titi. 

Titi starts out as a small shrub and grows into a small tree. It is pretty and can serve as a hedge in yards that have wet areas.    

The black titi, or buckwheat tree (Cliftonia monophyla), blooms in early spring (February through March) in the swamps of the Florida Panhandle. These blooms stand straight in short racemes. The flowers at the base bloom first.    

Beekeepers love Black Titi because it is a great source of nectar and pollen for honey. It is important to note that only black Titi is used by honeybees while White Titi should not be grown for honey production. White Titi is not a good pollinator plant as it can promote a condition called “purple brood” which is detrimental to the honeybees. 

We will be talking about the other gates and entrances to the Preserve in future articles. For now, let’s do some field work with our Volunteer Extraordinaire, Doug Lovejoy! Doug has just joined the Board of Directors and is so impressed with the Preserve, he wanted to do something to help everyone learn about it.  

We have read about some of the roads, trails, trees, plants, flowers, animals, so now let’s go out and put our eyes on them. Some may not be blooming but we can see the plant. Where a picture is worth a thousand words, putting your eyes and hands on the actual item is priceless.  

So, Doug will be leading trips to the different roads on the FIRST FRIDAY of each month at 9am! Awesome! First road is Cattle Dip Road. You can ride the tram or walk it with a group, take your time, ask questions, and enjoy being outdoors!  

Doug says, “We done our book learning so now let’s do our fieldwork – and have lots of fun while doing it!” Dylan Shoemaker, Preserve Manager encourages you to participate every time you can. “We love that Doug has taken on this task and is so happy to do it. His excitement has rubbed off on us and this is something we have talked about for some time. We want to get people out in the buffer. While you might not go on your own, there’s no excuse to miss this opportunity with a group and a guide.”  

The First Friday tours will go places the ordinary citizen might not go. It will introduce you to many different roads in the preserve – not just a few. Adventure here we come! As the tram cannot travel on some of the roads, it can take you down Treasure Road so that you can enjoy a nice stroll down without having to hike 3 miles to do so. What a deal!  

The same protocols will be in place as the regular Tram Tour concerning Covid-19, weather conditions, and supplies needed to make your tour enjoyable. Hats, sunscreen, water are suggested. Cameras and binoculars add another element to make your trip memorable. A little rain never hurt anyone so light rain will still be a go on First Friday. Only in the event of lightning and fear for public safety will a trip be canceled.   

There is no charge for the trips, however, registering will assure you a seat on the tram. Call Sandra at 229-1787 or after hours leave a message and she will return your call. Call today, get outdoors, and enjoy the day!