Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

I’m still going back and catching up on some FL posts I wanted to write while down there.

If anyone remembers that far back, the week before we left it was freezing down there.  Literally. We actually wanted to help with the sea turtle rescues, which we heard about down there, but weren’t able to find good info since we’re not really from around there.

Walking along the beach was a little sad. There were dead fish everywhere, the ones who didn’t make it from the freeze.  In one way, it’s mother nature’s way of weeding out the weak, but still, not altogether pleasant.  There were even starfish.

This is actually a millipede starfish – slightly different from the traditional starfish which has only 5 legs.

Instead of looking at dead fish the rest of the week, we took the opportunity to see lots of animal LIFE and headed to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge is 140,000 acres and was created as a “barrier zone” between NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center  and the surrounding towns and city.  To be perfectly honest, I’m a little skeptical at how much of a refuge it can be when a shuttle takes off, disturbing millions of animals with the loud sounds, fumes, etc., but I guess since it doesn’t happen all that often, they’re ok the rest of the time?

We started at the Visitor’s Center and took a quick walk around the boardwalk there. So much to see in only about 1/4 mile!

The boardwalk

Did you know citrus trees are not native to Florida?

Even though people closely identify citrus with Florida, it’s not a native plant.  It’s thought to have been brought in by Ponce de Leon and his peoples during the 1500s. Still, it’s delicious!

Spanish moss hanging down

So this is what spanish moss looks like! Do you know how often I have seen it mentioned in books?  A little lesson on spanish moss below:

A member of the bromeliad or pineapple family, Spanish moss is an epiphyte, or air plant.  It uses trees only for support, but gets its nourishment from air, sun and rain.  The gray stems are covered with scaly, gray-green leaves, and the small greenish flowers are rarely seen.  It is often found hanging in moss-like clumps from tree limbs, and even wires or poles.


Commonly found in pine flatwoods, saw palmettos grow in dense thickets, usually creeping low against the ground.  The fan-shaped leaves are 1-3 feet wide, and 3-6 feet tall, and have saw-like spines along the edges. White flowers are followed by black fruits that are eaten by many kinds of wildlife.

We heard something rustling in the brush and what do we see?  An armadillo! Never saw one in real life before. I tried to capture it with my camera, but shooting quickly I didn’t do too well and focused on the foreground brush instead of that blurry brown blog you can just make out to the right of center.  Oh well.  This is what one looks like:


Some mulberries

I wonder what I could make with enough mulberries…more jam?  🙂

Elderberry haven't quite opened yet

Ooh, it would be fabulous if I could make some elderberry liquor like I drank in Woodstock, VT!

Our sojourn at the boardwalk ended with a nice view of an American alligator sunning himself in the cattails.  You can just barely make him out in the center of the picture.  We HAVE to purchase a close-up lens for our DSLR soon – things looked closer to the naked eye than they do in our photos!

After the boardwalk, we headed over to the Black Point Wildlife Drive, where we saw even more wildlife.  All those birds that leave our northern hometown in late fall? Yup, there’s all HERE!  I’ll save that for a part 2 though. 🙂

One Response

  1. Ack where to even begin?! I had no idea oranges aren’t native to FL. I guess that’s the new thing I learned today.

    I can remember the first armadillo I saw, it was on my way to TX (go figure) unfortunately it was on the side of the road. Later I saw one ALIVE in my apt complex in TX and you know what…I touched it.

    Love this post.

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