A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Top Ten Natural Signs of Fall in Sarasota Florida

The Sarasota Herald Tribune's Tom Becnel filed a engaging report: Top Ten Signs of Fall in Florida, presumably as a condolence for those Sarasotans who miss the honking of migrating geese, the cider-pressing, leaf-raking and other signs of Fall that distinguish more temperate regions of our great nation. Along the way he cast each and every "sign" as a cultural phenomenon, describing how one can discern the change of seasons around here by the behavior of people. Here are ten ways to tell it is Fall in Sarasota without resorting to an anthropocentric point of view:

No.11 (a bonus sign) It Cools Off at Night. We still have some of those sweltering days, but when you go out to get the newspaper or remember you didn't put the trash, you're shocked by how cool it is.

 No.10 End of Rain. Sure, we might still have a hurricane or tropical storm, but the dry season is starting - expect October to have about one quarter as much rain as September.

No. 9. Local Citrus. Sure you can find limes and some other citrus at odd times, but Fall brings the historic Hamlins, Parson Browns and Navels as well as the newer hybrid citrus varieties such as Fallglo and Ambersweet. 

No 8. Shorter Days. Yes, our perception of day length is affected by Daylight Savings, but there is no denying there is less light each day. One minute less each day right now. 

No. 7  Beautyberry. We may not have many Fall foliage displays, but Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) sends out a violet signal no Northeastern plant can match. This native plant grows well, and responds well to pruning in January.

Beautyberry, Just one of the top ten signs of Fall in Sarasota Florida.

No. 6 Sunsets Sliding South. If you have a chance to watch the sunset from the east side of our bays you can see the sun marching south, ticking off condos like giant megaliths erected to monitor the sun's movements. 

No. 5 Holly Berries. Whether you have the domesticated East Palatkas or the wild Dahoon (Ilex cassine) or other species, Florida hollies add both seasonal color and form a link to the upcoming holiday season.

No. 4 Eagles and Ospreys. Some of the magnificent fish-eating birds hang around all year, but their migratory cousins show up, swell their ranks, and set about nest-building. 

No. 3 Prairie Wildflowers. If you have never walked the prairies at Myakka and seen the profusion of Fall wildflowers that include Liatis, Carphephorous, Solidago, Hyptis, Elephantopsis, Pine Lily and many others, get out there. 

No. 2 Chorisia speciosa. Once you have seen one of these trees, your Fall will never be the same. There's a small one on Cocoanut (maybe around 19th), a larger one opposite the dogtrack on Old Bradenton Road and a spectacular specimen up in Bradenton (I think west of the Royal Motel) that is just starting to bloom now. These massive trees have dramatic pink flowers in the Fall, usually between now and Thanksgiving. In addition to an unmatched Fall color show, they have bizarre green (photosynthetic) trunks covered with wicked spines -- probably to deter animals from nibbling on the photosynthetic trunks. 

No 1. White Pelicans. The number one sign of Fall in Sarasota for our family is migrating White Pelicans. These monsters have a wingspan second only to the California Condor (in North America) and make our resident Brown Pelicans look like scale models or maquettes. They are so big that we usually spot them through the windshield while we are driving down 41. They can fly in a long line (like geese), a vee formation (like geese) or high up in a gigantic spinning formation called a kettle (like vultures). That's when they move the slowest and exhibit a fascinating transformation: as they circle first you see their white plumage, then on edge they seem to disappear, then when they come back around you see their black feathers and then they get hard to see again until the flash of white. White, invisible, black, invisible -- very cool. PS I saw my first 2011 flock headed south on October 17th, two long loosely connected Vs, maybe 75 birds total.

A NOTE ON CAPITALIZATION: I capitalize the seasons Fall and Spring, but not summer, autumn, or winter. Why? Because Fall and Spring are nouns with other meanings -- Did you have a bad fall? is different than Did you have a bad Fall? Without the capitalization it can be confusing. Nothing reminded her of Florida so much as thoughts of a particular (Spring or spring)?