Birdwatching in Florida

Roseate Spoonbill at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Roseate Spoonbill at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. ©jcleveland

Florida is home to so many birds waiting for you to come check them out. The diverse habitats include beaches, wetlands, forests and grasslands that attract a variety of species.

Here are some popular birdwatching locations and the types of birds you can expect to see in Florida:

Everglades National Park:

You’ll find many species of birds calling the Everglades home. Those species include wading birds, including herons, egrets, and ibises. You may also spot the Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga, and the endangered Florida Snail Kite. I’ve seen the Roseate Spoonbill along the road eating from the culverts in the Indian River County area, as well as at the next stop on our tour.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge:

This refuge, located near Cape Canaveral, provides a habitat for over 300 bird species. During the winter months, you may encounter migratory birds such as American White Pelicans, Northern Pintails, and a variety of shorebirds. This is also one of the few locations where you can see the Florida Scrub-Jay. I wanted to explore the painted bunting nesting area, but no matter how far I hiked or where I went, they were not to be found. As it turned out, they showed up in my front yard the following month, so you never know what birds are around.

I have seen a lot of Scrub-Jays around my home, so they are also out in some of the Brevard County uninhabited areas. Those areas are quickly being developed, so it won’t be long before they are gone from here.

This is the feeder I use in my yard, but I have it on a pole with a baffle on it to keep the squirrels out. This makes it really easy to see the birds. The only problem is that the mourning doves are ground feeders, so they plant themselves in it and refuse to move. They are pigs.

Dry Tortugas National Park:

Accessible by boat or seaplane, this park is a group of seven islands located about 70 miles west of Key West. You can spot seabirds such as Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, and Magnificent Frigatebirds. It’s also an important location for migratory birds during spring and fall.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge:

Located on Sanibel Island, this refuge is home to many wading birds, such as the Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill. The White Pelican can be seen here on their migratory path.

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary:

Situated near Naples, this sanctuary is known for its boardwalk, which takes you through a variety of habitats, including cypress forests, wet prairies, and marshes. You may spot Wood Storks, Limpkins, and Barred Owls, among other species.

Fort De Soto Park:

This park, located near St. Petersburg, is a popular spot for shorebirds such as Piping Plovers, Red Knots, and Black-bellied Plovers. You may also find warblers and other migratory songbirds during spring and fall migrations.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands:

Located in Delray Beach, you’ll find many wading birds Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Green Herons. You can also spot Purple Gallinules, Least Bitterns, and Black-necked Stilts here.

In addition to wading and shore birds, don’t overlook the raptors that inhabit the state and some migratory hawks. We see red-shouldered hawks, falcons, red-tail hawks, owls and so many other raptors that like to eat the squirrels and fish around my home.

Be Prepared to Hike

Buy a good pair of binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera, so you can take longshots without getting off the trails. You can use a field guide on your cellphone (or the Merlin app from Cornell University, which is an amazing app that I use all the time), but you may find cellphone coverage spotty depending on where you’re hiking. It doesn’t hurt to have a small bird guide for your pocket.

These are good guides. I like that the Birds of Florida Field Guide has a painted bunting on the front.

Make sure that you dress for the weather and don’t wear open-toed shoes. Hiking boots with ankle coverage might be best. We do have rattlesnakes and other bitey kinda snakes.

Mosquitoes will try to make you their lunch no matter what time of the year you go birdwatching. They never go away. Ever.  So, wear whatever protection you need to keep from getting eaten alive, as well as sunscreen for sunny days.

Seriously, don’t be a hero.

Additionally, follow birdwatching ethics, such as not disturbing nesting birds and staying on designated trails.

If you’re lucky and live in Florida, then look out your front window and see if you can find a good place to put in a bird feeder that will bring birds to you. I enjoy my annual visit from the painted buntings.

The History of Florida

It’s impossible to cover the fascinating history of Florida in a 500 word article, so I am going to hit the highlights and promise to come back and fill in rest in future posts. Like all of our United States, it belonged to someone else before the settlers took it by force and built colonies and cities.


According to Florida Facts on the official Florida website, Florida’s first inhabitants were here over 12,000 years ago. The Spanish followed suit in 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon set foot on shore. The Spanish continued to rule Florida until the 1700s, and it was a popular territory for the Southern plantation owners.

It is said that Christopher Columbus brought the first oranges to Florida, but Ponce de Leon is credited for planting the first orange trees, which has been a cash crop for Florida ever since.

The name Florida is from an Easter Spanish Festival, Pascua Florida, which means Feast of Flowers that historians believe is another Ponce de Leon contribution to the state.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously populated city in the United States, and it dates back to 1565. If you get a chance when you’re in Florida, stop by this city and spend some time wandering around the Fort.

Not Spanish

Spain had to give up Florida during the Seven Year War, when Cuba and the Philippines were captured by the British. If they wanted those colonies back, they had to give Florida to the Brits. The First Treaty of Paris was the paperwork that gave it away.


During the Revolutionary War, Florida did not fight for the colonies. They remained loyal to England, and the first chance they got, the Spanish took it back. From 1783 until 1821, the Spanish again ruled Florida. It didn’t stop Andrew Jackson from trying to wrest control over Florida though, and he started the First Seminole War. By 1817, everyone was fighting everyone, and Jackson burned it all to the ground.

Not Spanish

An 1819 Treaty saw the state in the hands of the United States as a territory with Andrew Jackson as its first governor. Funny how that turned out. The first Florida newspapers were St. Augustine’s Florida Gazette and Pensacola’s Floridian.

Tallahassee was chosen as the capital and it became a state in 1845. First thing the state tried to do was secede during the Civil War. Brilliant, I say.

Then Maybe Not a State

During the Civil War, the Ordinance of Secession was drawn up in 1861. Florida was taking its flowers and going home. The Union army didn’t really care and took over Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville. They had Black troops with them, which sent the Confederates over the edge. The Confederates managed to hang onto Tallahassee and the governor killed himself. The Federal government took it over and ended slavery.

There was an impeachment, a fight against Reconstruction, another election kerfuffle – if there is an election kerfuffle, look to Florida first to have mucked it up, and the end of Reconstruction thanks to Florida’s strong arming another election with disputed electoral votes. If anything goes wrong in an election, it’s because of Florida.

Then Maybe a State

They became a state again, or at least acknowledged they were a state. Then they wrote a new state constitution that seemed to work until 1968. They even granted Confederate pensions to veterans.

Nobody drank, then everybody drank, then nobody drank again with the 18th Amendment to the Florida Constitution outlawing alcohol.


1920 land boom. Then a hurricane. Then another hurricane. Boom over.

Amelia Earhart waved good-bye from Miami and was never seen again.

So much more to cover, but this is going to be it for the moment. We are up to World War II for those of you playing along at home.

Think that Florida sounds like someplace you want to live? Keep reading my blog posts while I cover some of the more interesting aspects of Florida. Like more booms and more busts, and a lot more hurricanes.

If you buy any of the products or use the links to go to Amazon and buy something else within a day, I get a little bit of money. I thank you for the support.

4 of My Favorite Florida State Parks

Sebastian Inlet State Park in Florida
Sebastian Inlet State Park ©jcleveland 2015

Florida is home to 175 state parks, and many of those parks have trails where you can wander amongst the flora and fauna that is abundant when it has not been cut back for development. You can try your hand at birdwatching, which you know I do from the comfort of my desk, and you can experience the thrill of being eye-to-eye with a wild hog or an alligator. Fun for the whole family!

Every one of Florida’s parks is an adventure. You can select the park you want to visit based on the type of activity you want to do once you get there. Sun, sand, and surfing for the coastal parks; kayaking and canoeing for the waterway parks; birding at both the inland and the coastal parks; and camping, swamping, fishing, and more from many of the inland areas. St. Johns Waterway is home to airboat rides, bass fishing, boating, and more.

I chose four of my favorite parks for a couple of reasons. They are a day trip for me, and I like these the best.

Sebastian Inlet State Park

I can see this park from my house. It is the first place that I camped at when I got to Florida in the 1980s, and it is the first place that I experienced the awesome no-see-um bug. I thought it was a myth until I spent the whole night trying to roll in sand to escape the mean little teeth of a bug no bigger than the tip of a pinpoint.

This park was also the first place where I ever saw hermit crabs in the wild. They were very busy swapping houses along the shoreline, and had I not been being eaten alive, I would have spent more time watching them.

This park is the inlet for the Indian River Lagoon into the Atlantic Ocean and is located just north of Sebastian, Florida. It has a fishing jetty that attracts a lot of fishing folks, as well as the pelicans that follow them around like puppies looking for scraps.

It was the first place that I saw a barracuda in the ocean, and where I learned to boogie board and eat sand. I also saw a naked man on the jetty, which to this day, amuses me. Someone actually yelled “naked man on the jetty” as this guy jumped into the ocean. 

Kids love to play here and it is a good place to learn to surf. It’s not too rough, and the beach is nice and smooth.

It is a place with nice breaking waves that attract the local surfers and has a surfing spot named “Monster Hole”. It is also where the 1715 Spanish Fleet went down along the coastline between here and Vero Beach, so during a wild hurricane, it is not unusual to see a doubloon on the beach.

The inlet makes way to a nice tidal pool that is quite large and never empties. It is a place where you can wade, splash in the water, and just enjoy being wet without being beaten up by the waves. You can sit in the pool and wait to see if some of the sea creatures like starfish, anemones, and seahorses come visit you.  Oh, and there are crabs. Watch your toes.

The water is usually very warm. There are picnic tables, a small seaside grill that serves hamburgers, and open showers, as well as restrooms with indoor showers.

It’s great for the family, and if you wander around the state park portion of it, there are a lot of places to explore like walking trails.

Visit the Sebastian Inlet State Park virtually here.

Blue Spring State Park

The Blue Spring State Park is a quiet place to go watch the manatees and enjoy a river cruise in a pontoon boat.

It is a spring park on the St. Johns River, and I have spent many a day there just enjoying the water and the wildlife. It used to be home to steamboats back in the 1880s, but now it is home to people looking for a place to escape the theme parks and get a suntan.

Because it’s a spring, you’ll find manatees lounging about in the warm water. That’s not the first place I saw manatees in the river, but it’s the first place that I saw them in a wilder environment. The first time was in the warm water at the boat docs by the power plant in Ft. Pierce.

Blue Spring State Park can get crowded quickly, so if you’re planning on a visit, go early in the morning. There are lots of picnic tables and do a little hiking in the cooler months. There’s a historical home in the park where the original owner set up his plantation, and there are lots of birding trails to follow.

If you’re brave, and I am not, you can do a little swimming around the entrance to the spring. I seem to remember some kids diving into the spring cave. I avoid open holes in the earth; they give me the willies.

The water activities are curtailed during manatee season, which runs from November to March, but the rest of the year, you can canoe, kayak, swim, splash, and enjoy the water.
The park is located in Orange City, Florida, and there are wooden walkways that will take you to the cave entrance, so you can watch the divers or dive yourself.

Read more Blue Spring State Park information here.

Myakka River State Park

The Myakka River State Park is on the other side of the state from me. It is located in the pine forests around Sarasota, Florida. It is home to both wetlands and prairies, and during the dry season when the water levels are low, they close the boat ramps.

It took a hit from Hurricane Ian in 2022, but as of 2023, some of the affected parts have opened back up again. You can now do some camping there and hang out during the day, but if you’ve never been to a hurricane-ravaged spot before, expect things to be messy.  There may be some places on the walkways that have been damaged, so be careful when hitting the trails. Also, expect a lot of trees will have been stripped of their leaves and limbs. Dead palm fronds will be everywhere.

If you love birdwatching and are always looking for something elusive like the spoonbill, this is the spot to see them. I saw my first one in the Canaveral Seashore, but they like the marshy areas of the Myakka River too.

This state park also has a creepy hole in it appropriately named the Deep Hole. It’s a sinkhole that opened up on the northwest bank of the river and is 135 feet deep. There’s no spring, so you can’t dive it, but you can freshwater fish in the river. You need to bring your own fishing license.

Horses are a cool way to travel the trails. There are 15 miles of trails to ride.

There is a canopy trail 25 feet above the ground that lets you explore the hammock. I would check on this before you go because of the hurricane damage it may be unavailable.

The park has camping and you can bring your leashed pets, but please, there are alligators, keep your dogs and children away from the edges of lakes, springs, rivers, and swamps. Too many people lose their pets, kids, and grandmothers to alligators every year.

Check out Myakka River State Park information here.

Silver Springs State Park

For history buffs, Silver Springs was the first tourist attraction in Florida and opened its doors in the 1870s. Today, the state owns it and incorporated it into Silver Springs State Park.

The grounds of Silver Springs consist of walking trails through gardens and under the canopy of the mossy oaks you’ll find all over the state of Florida. There are more than 30 springs that make up the park. You can see the springs flowing up from the earth to the rivers by looking into another one of those freaky holes. For what it’s worth, I’ve been to Yellowstone a million times, and the holes there creep me out too.

If you’re not squeamish about holes, then take a glass bottom boat tour of the springs. I looked long enough to see fish, but that was not for me.

The park has trails to wander around on, and it is home to wildlife like deer and turkeys. If you’ve never seen either of these in the wild, it can be a bit awe-inspiring. Again, an alligator warning is needed here. You don’t want to see all of Florida’s wildlife up close and personal, so, be careful.

Like most of Florida’s trails, they are on raised platforms to keep you out of the mouths of alligators and off the fragile ecosystem. The boardwalks used to be all wood, but I’ve noticed lately that when repairs and replacements are needed, they have switched to what looks like maybe a resin-type material that they then try to color to look like wood. I probably won’t live long enough to see if this material lasts longer, so someone else will have to come through and write about that later.

Camping, horseback riding, boating, and heritage trails and historical sites are all available to you.

This park is located in the west-central part of the state in Ocala, Florida where there be bears people.

You’ll find more Silver Springs State Park information here.

The State of Florida offers so many parks that you can find one no matter where you live or are visiting in the state. I hope you get to visit these parks on my list because these are some of my favorite ones. I’ve spent most of my time at the Sebastian Inlet Park because it’s close to home, and whenever I want to go and enjoy the ocean, I go there. Maybe I will see you there.

How to Choose the Best Grass for Florida Lawns

Do you know what the difference is between a Yankee and a Damn Yankee? The Damn Yankee never goes back home after they come to Florida. I am a Damn Yankee. From Illinois, so …​

Besides sun and surf, do you know what else is different between Florida and Illinois, or any other civilized state in the union? They have grass; Florida does not.

I don’t know what that stuff is in the yard, but it is not grass. Grass is long and tickles your feet when you’re barefoot. It is lush and green, and while it may have some dandelions and weeds, it does not have cockroaches living in it.

Florida has native grasses. The difference is that Florida grasses grow in clumps like Elliott’s Lovegrass, but does not cover any turf. The closest wild grass that covered Florida’s turf before the development of the state is arstidia stricta or wiregrass as it is commonly called. It thrives in hot, sandy, pinelands and adores poorly drained soils like those on the Florida prairies, but it also clumps. It does not do well in the coastal areas where it is subject to salt air.

Craig Huegel wrote a report on using native grasses for lawns in The Understory in 1998 reprinted in the Pinellas Chapter FNPS that still rings true today. That Florida does not want native grasses. They want grasses that look pretty.

Pros and Cons of Florida Grass


  • Heat and drought tolerant
  • Low maintenance with minimal watering, fertilizing, and mowing
  • Versatile selections for most landscape needs


  • Susceptible to disease and pests
  • Limited shade tolerance
  • Costly choices

Here are some of the most common grasses used in landscaping and on lawns today:

  1. St. Augustine grass: A warm-season grass that is widely used in Florida due to its tolerance to heat and humidity. It has a dense, lush appearance and is well-suited to low-traffic areas.
  2. Bermuda grass: Another warm-season grass, Bermuda grass is known for its high heat and drought tolerance. It is often used in sports fields and golf courses in Florida. We got some golf courses!
  3. Zoysia grass: Zoysia is a warm-season grass that is known for its fine texture and ability to grow in a variety of soils. It is also relatively low maintenance.
  4. Centipedegrass: Centipedegrass is a slow-growing warm-season grass that is well-suited to areas with limited maintenance resources. It is commonly used in parks and other public spaces.
  5. Bahia grass: Bahia grass is a warm-season grass that is commonly used in pastures and for erosion control. It is a low-maintenance grass that is tolerant to heat and drought.
  6. Seashore Paspalum: A warm-season grass, Seashore Paspalum is known for its salt tolerance, making it a popular choice for landscaping near saltwater.
  7. Buffalo grass: A warm-season grass, Buffalo grass is known for its low-maintenance requirements and ability to thrive in a wide range of soils. It is commonly used in parks and other public spaces.

What is the easiest grass to maintain in Florida?

Taking into consideration climate, soil type, and lawn use, the easiest grass with the lowest maintenance will always be a winner. Here are some of the easiest grasses to maintain in Florida:

  1. Zoysia grass
  2. Centipedegrass
  3. Seashore Paspalum
  4. Buffalo grass

What is the difference between growing grass on the coast as opposed to inland Florida? 

When choosing your grass, you have to consider your location in the state. Here are some breakdowns on the differences between coastal and inland grass based on the needs of the area like salt tolerance.

Coastal Florida Grass Needs:

  1. Salt tolerance: Coastal areas are often exposed to salt spray from the ocean, which can be harmful to some grass types. Seashore Paspalum and Bermuda grass are two examples of grass varieties that are highly salt-tolerant and well-suited to coastal areas.
  2. Moisture: Coastal areas tend to have higher humidity and more rainfall, which can make it easier to maintain a healthy lawn.
  3. Soil: Coastal soils are often sandy and well-drained, which can affect the type of grass that can be grown in these areas.

Inland Florida Grass Needs:

  1. Heat and drought tolerance: Inland areas are subject to hotter temperatures and less rainfall, making it important to choose a drought-tolerant grass type. Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass are well-suited to these conditions.
  2. Soil: Inland soils can vary greatly, with some areas having clay or heavy soils that can make it more challenging to grow a healthy lawn.
  3. Shaded areas: Inland areas are often subject to more shade due to the presence of trees, making it important to choose a shade-tolerant grass type. St. Augustine grass is relatively shade-tolerant.

What types of bugs and grass diseases are there in Florida grass?

If you’ve been to Florida, you know that we grow our bugs BIG. Did you know they live under your feet, too? Yay for us.

Florida Lawn Bugs:

  1. Chinch bugs: Chinch bugs are small, red, and black insects that can cause significant damage to lawns. They feed on the sap of grass plants and can cause yellow patches in lawns.
  2. Armyworms: Armyworms are caterpillar-like insects that can cause damage to grass by feeding on the blades. They can cause large, irregularly shaped holes in lawns.
  3. Mole crickets: Mole crickets are insects that can cause significant damage to lawns by burrowing in the soil and feeding on the roots of grass plants. The first time I saw one of these, I was sure it was a mutant of some sort.
  4. Sod webworms: Sod webworms are caterpillar-like insects that feed on grass blades, causing small, irregularly shaped brown patches in lawns.

Florida Lawn Diseases:

  1. Brown patch: Brown patch is a fungal disease that affects warm-season grasses and can cause circular patches of brown, dead grass in lawns.
  2. Dollar spot: Dollar spot is a fungal disease that affects warm-season grasses and can cause small, circular patches of tan or brown grass in lawns.
  3. Gray leaf spot: Gray leaf spot is a fungal disease that affects St. Augustine grass and can cause gray or brown patches on the leaves of grass plants.
  4. Fairy ring: Fairy ring is a fungal disease that affects lawns and can cause circular patches of dark green or yellow grass surrounded by brown grass.

To prevent or control these pests and diseases, it is important to practice good lawn care techniques, such as mowing at the recommended height, watering deeply and infrequently, and fertilizing appropriately. It is also helpful to consult with a local landscaping professional or horticulturist if you suspect a pest or disease problem. Florida is hot and humid, so fungus lives everywhere.

Should I hire a landscaper to care for my Florida grass? As I look out onto my lawn of sand and dirt, I would go with a big “yes” to that question. As to whether you want to hire someone to take care of your lawn depends on whether or not you want to take care of it and your level of expertise in lawn maintenance and landscaping.

Here are some benefits of hiring a professional landscaper:

  1. Expertise: Landscapers have the expertise and experience to care for your lawn properly, including identifying and treating any pests or diseases that may arise.
  2. Time-saving: Hiring a landscaper to care for your lawn can save you time and effort. It also cuts down on your frustration level when it seems like a losing battle.
  3. High-quality results: A professional landscaper can provide high-quality results, helping to ensure that your lawn is healthy and attractive.
  4. Equipment: Landscapers typically have access to professional-grade equipment, such as mowers, edgers, and fertilization equipment, that can make lawn care easier and more efficient.
  5. Consistency: Hiring a landscaper can ensure that your lawn is consistently cared for, helping to avoid issues such as over- or under-fertilization, irregular mowing, or improper watering.

There is nothing more beautiful than a green yard with lots of budding flowers in it, and Florida is the perfect place to grow some of the most colorful flowers all year round, but grass? Not so much. It is doable, but you have to spend a lot of time and money to get the lawn you want.

One thing for certain, a beautiful lawn helps to raise the resale value of your home, and that’s always a good thing. 

A Hummingbird Garden with Native Florida Flowers

A hummingbird resting on the top of my honeysuckle. I never knew they stopped moving until I saw this. @jcleveland

Once upon a time we had a large honeysuckle bush that was planted on the corner of our slab back porch. It was over 12 feet tall and full of flowers. The odd thing is only one lone hummingbird ever seemed to find the bush. During a construction project, the bush came down, but there are still many winding honeysuckle tendrils along the edge of our property that do attract hummingbirds occasionally. I have seen one on that this year after many years of no hummingbirds. To be fair, the honeysuckle that is on the property is not native and probably considered invasive. 

I am planning my next project: A hummingbird hospitality center

I have tried the little hanging nectar tubes, but they were not interested, and being in Florida, I had to contend with ants and mold, so I gave that project up. My folks in Illinois are quite successful with their hanging feeder; I think they have my Dad trained to feed them when they perch on the window and look in. I prefer to do mine the natural way. The cardinals are already demanding enough.

This is something like what my folks have:

Firebush image by Louis R Nugent 

My plan is to plant a native hummingbird garden somewhere in the yard where I can see it and they won’t feel threatened by the house or the dog.

Here are some of the native Florida plants that I am considering:

  • Firebush, Hamelia patens – We have one plant in the yard, but I want to put more in a concentrated area. 
  • Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens – These are vines, so I can’t pot them.
  • Coralbean, Erythrina herbacea – We have a couple of these scattered over the property, but I would like to put them in a concentrated area.
  • Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea – I have blue Salvia that is great for butterflies, but if you haven’t noticed, hummingbirds seem to love red!
  • Cardinalflower, Lobelia cardinalis – These plants spike up to 6 feet, but they don’t vine, so they would be great in a pot.

Other plants that we already have include bottlebrush, cigar flower, red buckeye and more. They are not in one place, so it makes it hard to see if there are any hummingbirds on them since they are nested in with other plants and away from the house. 

The project for the summer is to build a hummingbird section in the yard, so I will be ready for them as they migrate back this way at the end of the year.

Interested in building your own hummingbird hospitality center? Here are some books that might get you started.

Here is the same book, but instead of paperback, it is in eformat in the Kindle section of Amazon. It is currently in the Kindle Unlimited section, which means you can read for free!

Here are some of my hummingbird handmade products for you to enjoy.

Shop Related Products

60mm 3D Laser Hummingbird Crystal Ball Paperweight Figurines Glass Crystal …


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Not all Weeds are Weeds

By looking around at my yard, you would think that every plant in it is a weed, but I learned something really important when preparing this post: some of my weeds are butterfly host plants.

As you know, I have been courting monarchs for a year with lots of yummy milkweed plants, but my yard is also home to a large selection of other butterflies like the zebra butterfly, the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, four species of swallowtails, the cloudless Sulphur, painted lady butterfly, and the American lady butterfly.

I discovered that one of the weeds that I had been removing was a cudweed, also known as a Pennsylvania Everlasting. It is not from Pennsylvania nor is it a native plant, but it is the host plant to the American lady butterfly, which explains why I have so many of them in the yard.  As I read up further on the American lady butterfly, I realized that I have seen the caterpillars on the porch.

I thought I would dig a little deeper into my butterflies and find out what plant they used as hosts. Here is what I found:

Zebra longwing butterfly – These pretty little butterflies are the Florida State butterfly and love my jatropha bush in the backyard, but they lay their eggs on the purple passionflower. While I don’t have any passionflower in my yard, I know where I can get a plant or two. It just seems like these butterflies are so prevalent that they don’t need my help to procreate.

Gulf Fritillary – The Gulf Fritillary also enjoy the passionflower and passion vine as a host, but they are attracted to nectar plants like lantana, zinnias, asters, verbena, butterfly bushes, and thistle.

Swallowtails – I have black swallowtails, and they use carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace as their host plants. I did plant some dill and parsley last year to give them a place to lay their eggs, but I have not seen a cat yet. The giant swallowtail likes wild lime and other citrus trees. The spicebush and pipevine swallowtail are both named for their host plants, and all of the swallowtails love nectar plants like pentas, zinnias, and lantana.

Cloudless Sulphur – This pretty yellow butterfly uses the Senna plant as its host. If they feed on the yellow flowers of a cassia plant, they will turn bright yellow. They enjoy coneflowers, too.

Painted Lady – The Painted Lady butterfly looks a lot like the American lady butterfly, but it has four eyes on each wing while the American lady has two. The American lady also has a white spot on their top wings in a sea of orange. The Painted Lady lay their eggs on thistles and mallow family plants. They munch on asters, as long as they are 3 or more feet tall.

Every year, a migration of white butterflies heads our way from South Florida, and this year, I will make sure that they have a lot of lantana and other nectar plants to enjoy. We do get them to stop over here, but I will do what I can to make it an even tastier stop this year.

Not all straggly-looking plants are weeds; some are a very important stopover for butterflies. 

Passionflower host plant.

Since butterflies are crucial to our world’s make up, it is never too late to teach children and adults about the butterflies in their world. Here are a couple of recommended books for the young at heart. 

Are Aphids Good for Your Garden?

Aphids! What the heck? 

Aphids come in a few colors, but the ones that have infested my milkweed are bright yellow. They can also be brown, black or red. Since they are a pest, I insisted on getting rid of them on sight when they first appeared as a yellow blanket all over my milkweed. I have changed my mind since then.  After a lot of reading, I have come to understand that the aphid is the base meal of other beneficial beasties in the garden. However, that doesn’t mean let them infest your garden!

These little creatures suck the sap out of your plants, so their ultimate goal is to kill your plant. The good thing about them is that they do attract the ladybugs, a type of beetle, who are pest eaters in their own right. A ladybug can eat over 5,000 insects in their little life according to experts. Lacewing flies also like to munch on aphids. Both of these insects act as natural pesticides.

If you’re growing milkweed like I am, then you don’t want to use pesticides on the plants to kill the aphids on it. I do use a soap and water mixture to destroy aphids when they get to be too bad, but you can also kill the monarch eggs if you’re not careful. A good dousing with the water hose will do the trick, too.

I find that the best way to get rid of an abundance of aphids is to wet a paper towel and gently wipe down the leaves and stalks of the plants. The aphids are very delicate, so it is very easy to kill them.

Or, you could just let nature take its course and the next thing you will see is an army of these lizard-like things marching across your plant in search of aphids. These are baby ladybugs that look like tiny alligators before they mature into the cute red and black beetles we know and love.

Did you know you could buy ladybugs? Your local nursery may have them for sale in little containers like the ones we got earthworms in when we were kids. Or, they may be in bags like these from Amazon.

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Lacewing flies are not quite as voracious as the ladybug, but they do their own housekeeping. I have noticed that they are inclined to be around my flowering plant aphids as opposed to the milkweed aphids. The aphids are a bit different, so that may be why the lacewing flies are more inclined to hang out by my potted flowers.

Are aphids, good or bad for your garden? If they are not hurting your plants, and there are only a few of them, why not wait for the ladybugs to show up and lay eggs? You can observe another cycle of life while knowing that your plants are safe.

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Poisonous Plants to Avoid in Florida Landscaping

Like animals and bugs, the plants in Florida serve only one purpose; that is to kill you. Not just you, but your pets, too. Yet, we plant them in our gardens and use them in the city parks.

Oleanders – deadly poisonous native of the Mediterranean;
Castor Bean – a native of Africa that produces ricin;
Rosary Pea – a native from the Old World (wherever THAT is) that produces abrin;
Gloriosa Lily – a native of Africa that produces several toxic compounds like alkaloid colchicine;
King Sago – a poisonous cycad from Japan that produces BMAA and cycasin;
Spotted Water Hemlock – a member of the carrot family that produces nerve poisons

When you create your garden, use native plants for a more balanced yard that attracts pollinators and birds.

Here are some that are in my yard:

  • American Beautyberry
  • Azalea
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Blazing Star
  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Elliott’s Aster
  • Scarlet Salvia
  • Tickseed

If you want to read more on setting up a native landscape, here are some books that I suggest:

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How We Celebrate Thanksgiving in Florida

Just a quick post today. Happy Thanksgiving! 

We don’t have the advantage of the cold weather here in Florida to help us truly celebrate Thanksgiving, but we try. I remember needing to crack the window because the oven would fog up the house windows when we cooked the turkey. Here, we put the air on because usually November is still a warm month. 

Right now, I have a whole batch of homemade egg noodles drying on the back sunporch because the humidity here is so high most of the time, I only get a couple days to make noodles a year. They will be our Thanksgiving dinner of beef and noodles, which is a favorite, but again, not many days where we want to eat something so warm and toasty that we need to move the thermostat to 62. 

After we eat, we walk the beach because we’re fat and sand is hard to walk in. We also go to the movies or bowling. The one thing we don’t do is shovel snow on the walk or try to get our car out of a drift.

I want to share a photo that I took of our pine tree in the front yard. These guys came for dinner and were patiently waiting for me to serve it. 

Whatever you do, don’t forget to do your Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping! Amazon has amazing deals for you. You don’t even have to get dressed, and after a day of eating, you might not want to. Check out these cool deals:

We spend our holiday playing board games, and these classics are on sale!

Grab some board games like Monopoly and Yahtzee – on sale 40% OFF

Doing any bullet journaling for 2023? These colorful markers are 20% OFF 
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60% OFF this unicorns and llamas Monopoly set – who knew there was even such a thing?

Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours!