Florida in 1500 | Richard G. Tiberius

Florida in 1500  |  Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 24 in | 61 x 61 cm

Florida, in the early 1500s before Spanish explorers arrived, was largely covered with pines and Saw Palmetto. These formed a stable ecosystem.  Frequent fires burned off the shrubs and small trees that would otherwise create dense underbrush, overwhelming the Palmetto and preventing new pines from establishing.  The pines, protected by thick bark were spared and the Palmetto trunks sprouted new leaves as soon as the fire passed.  New grass sprouted up after the first rain to fill in the spaces.
This is the scene we were likely to see in 1500.  Many pines would be quite large since they had not been logged.  So would the Saw Palmetto.  We could walk freely through the grassy underbrush.  I did not include a path in the composition. Only Calusa Indians with soft shoes have walked here.  There is an open space to the right of the Palmetto through which you will continue your journey, but you stop to view the complexity of the Palmetto in the sun.  There is a lot to see.

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These large specimens of Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii) and Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) live in the Collier-Seminole State Park.  It was winter so the grasses were already a golden color.  South Florida landscapes, unlike northern trees in fall, are not known for their color, yet, on close inspection there is an interesting color range here. The hard, glossy Palmetto frond surfaces reflect the bright sun in pure white streaks, with translucent yellow backlighted tips. The dead fronds, unmolested by gardeners, droop in sunlit rusty browns and ochres and dull violet in the shadows. The pine trunks are broken into jagged plates like jig-saw puzzles, each a slightly different color from reddish hues to almost blue.

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