Though we’ve had several beautiful days as of late and there have even been a few with fun waves, the ocean temp is still struggling to get near sixty degrees. David’s got himself a new 4’3 and declares himself “hot” in the midday sun, but I’m trying to stretch my old 3’2 for one last season and until the water gets above sixty or the air gets into the eighties, you’ll find me admiring the surf from the shore. Yes, three weeks in tropical Puerto Rico does spoil one.
In doing my best to enjoy my time out of the water, I’ve tried to take in more of the beauty of the beach aside from the waves. I’ve been paying more attention to the animals and plants that live along the waters edge and admiring the many features of the landscape that come together to form the beach. I thought it might be nice to start a series on the blog featuring different things you might see on the beach in Fernandina with a bit of background information.
First up is one of my favorite plants, Cirsium horridulum, or Purple/Yellow Thistle.
Thistle can be found all over Florida, from the beach to pasture land, so long as it is a sandy, open area. It’s considered a Florida Native Plant and though dormant through winter, by February you’ll see them starting to blossom out.
Thistle is the larval host to the Little Metalmark and Painted Lady butterflies, as well as a nectar source for bees. The spines of the plant provide shelter for insects and other invertebrates attempting to escape becoming a meal for birds, including what I think is the invasive, Otala punctata, a species of land snail. Jaxshells.org has an interesting article on the colony of otala punctata found in Fernandina Beach, here.
Despite it’s menacing appearance and typical treatment as a ‘weed’, thistle is considered an edible, with first and second year leaves, stems and blossom end able to be eaten raw or cooked. Green Deane, of Eat the Weeds, has complete details for harvesting and preparing. I mean really, what doesn’t taste good after adding butter and salt?
It looks like the air temps are trying to push into the seventies and even low eighties this week and I see a few days with south winds in the forecast (fingers crossed that it will push up some warmer water from the south!) so I’m hoping I’ll be in the water by the end of the week. I’ll try to keep this series going, exploring the beach and it’s features through the upcoming changing seasons. I already know what I’m sharing next and while I have no clue the background information on it, it is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever stumbled across while combing the shoreline.