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Author: Les Harrison

Maples will soon emerge from obscurity to display burst of colors

The change of seasons from summer to autumn brings out new colors in the countryside and residential areas.

The transformation of tones depends on both the region of the country and the species putting on the show.
In regions further north, many of the deciduous trees add to the polychromatic exhibition, complementing the late season native flowers.

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Blazing stars at summit of native wildflower bloom

Being on top is usually a good position. It is the place which denotes exceptional accomplishment and has the best view, especially of those below who are looking up in anticipation of reaching the pinnacle.

There is one genus of a native wildflower that begins its colorful display at the top, literally. The blazing stars activate its annual flowering at the top of its towering bloom spike and works its way down the green stalk.

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Long-tailed skipper and butterfly pea add color to panhandle’s early autumn.

“Eat your vegetables,” is the anthem of almost every parent during mealtime when juveniles are involved.

For one set of butterfly parents in Santa Rosa County, there has never been the need to entice their young to consume the peas. The long-tailed skipper’s larva is known for an appetite which focuses on a variety of pea species, along with a few others.

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September important month for native plants

The month of September is known as the gateway for a variety of events. Historically, it was the beginning of the school year.

September is an important month for many native plants in Santa Rosa County. This ninth month of the year with its dwindling hours of sun is the time seeds mature and plant growth slows.

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Walnut trees have what they need to survive in the wild

Juglans nigra, as black walnuts are botanically identified, is a native tree with a variety of features and uses valued by humanity. The southern range of this tree is the non-coastal zones in counties of north Florida and is not adapted to coastal environs with sandy alkaline soils.

It grows in the wild and planted groves in areas east of the great plains in the U.S. and into southern Canada. Well-drained soils with a high organic matter content will support this slow growing hardwood. In the case of Santa Rosa County expect to see examples in its northern most acres.

The shape of the tree depends on the setting where it grows. Wild trees which occur in forested areas tend to be tall with a straight single trunk and a canopy reaching about 90 feet above the ground.

Walnut trees growing in open areas with full sun exposure tend to be much shorter. Trunks, while usually single, will have noticeably larger girth as compared to specimens of the same age which grew in heavily forested sites.

This tree is always started from its nut which, if planted with the previous season nuts, commonly have a high rate of germination. Started in one-gallon pots, they are easily transplanted into permanent sites in the landscape or grove.

The leaves, technically, can be up to two feet in length and may contain up to 23 leaflets. A healthy tree’s canopy produces dense shade under its reaches, which suppresses the growth of many other plants.

Additionally, to eliminate competitors, this species produces an allelopathic chemical in its root zone to give this tree an added advantage. This natural form of biological warfare kills some plant species and deters others, so, if added as a specimen in the home landscape, this factor should be considered.

The chocolate brown lumber is valued highly for its use in furniture, paneling and many other products. To a lesser degree, its nut meat is used in a variety of recipes, usually as a flavor enhancer.

Extremely hard, it takes a steel hammer or some other ridged tool and much physical effort to crack these tough nuts. The challenge discourages many.

In the coming weeks the nut’s husk will turn from green to dark brown and drop from the branches.

Hard wood, harder nuts and the ability to conduct chemical suppression of competitors – all factors needed for survival in the wild.

To learn more about this desirable tree in Navarre, Gulf Breeze and Santa Rosa County, contact the nearest UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit To read more stories by Les Harrison visit: and follow him on Facebook.