Rocks Rule!

Rocks Rule!

I enjoy introducing people to little gems that showcase Florida… its history, culture, or nature. Last January, I visited Washington Oaks Gardens State Park on my own and posted a blog entry.
Nature, modified by man

Nature, modified by man

I returned there May 02, but this time accompanied by photographers from the Southeast Volusia Camera Club. Our group of ten took many photographs, not only in different natural settings but also in changing light as we moved from the bright light of the beach to the deep shade in the park as the morning passed. I share some of my photos with you here.

Washington Oaks is truly two parks in one as it spans the extent of a barrier island from the ocean to the (estuary). The field trippers gathered around 9:00 a.m. at the rocky beach portion of the Park at dead low tide, the best time to see the exposed coquina rock formations. We explored and photographed tide pools and the rocks, covered with algae and encrusting organisms, such as snails, barnacles, and limpets. Seabirds and a large, blooming yucca plant provided more photo opportunities.

Shore line at low tide

Shore line at low tide

Life on the rocks

Life on the rocks


After spending time in the bright (and warm) Florida sunshine, we eagerly sought shade in the Gardens portion of the Park.

Here, we found a mix of formal gardens and typical barrier island hammock vegetation. Roses bloomed in the formal gardens; a variety of plants flourished along paths that wound around spring-fed ponds. A gazebo, fountains, foot bridges and small statues provided additional evidence of human maintenance. Huge live oak trees covered in epiphytes, such as ferns and bromeliads, dominated the natural vegetation.

The dominator!

The dominator!

Under the biggest oak in the park

Under the biggest oak in the park

On the beach, life battles harsh elements – wind, waves, and heat as well as erosion. The algae and small creatures survive by clinging to rocks, waiting for relief as the tide moves from low to high twice daily. Each rock is covered by these tenacious organisms; every tiny spot is prime real estate. Competition for a foothold on the rocks is fierce.

Environmental conditions in the Gardens are more moderate. The plants provide shade and moisture, and enrich the soil as they live and die. But, competition for space here is as fierce as it on the beach. Seeds and seedlings claim turf and try to dominate green competitors as well as outlast hungry herbivores. However, some animals have evolved to assist plants as pollinators, a win-win relationship with the plants. Tall trees serve as habitat for not only animals but also other plants.

As an ecologist, and college instructor, I have often taken students to Washington Oaks to investigate how plant and animal communities change and blend along a continuum from lagoon to beach. This time nature photography and artistic expression were the goals.

While all of us enjoyed the lush park setting, a few did not find artistic inspiration on the severe beach landscape, where geology rather than life seems to dominate. Many photographs recorded the strikingly different settings on the beach and in the gardens, but perhaps, it is macro photography that best captures the less obvious battles for life in both places. Lyn

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