The Great Kapok Seed

Ceiba pentandra

Hundreds of windblown puffballs stuck to a stretch of fence along Palm Beach Boulevard suggest a truckload of pillows exploded in a vehicle crash nearby.

Ceiba pentandra

A closer look reveals a black seed within each puff.

Ceiba pentandra

After sharing Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree and discussing rainforest conservation with third graders year after year, the new neighbor meets this Central American wonder in person.

Ceiba pentandra and Abrus precatorius

Deadly Peas in the Backyard

Abrus precatorius

Whether Latrodectus or Micrurus, some red flags are more duotone. This one’s popping in the backyard.

Abrus precatorius

In the words of Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants, “The poison at work within rosary peas is abrin, which is similar to ricin, found in castor beans. Abrin attaches itself to cell membranes and prevents cells from making protein, which kills them.” Stay away.

Brazilian Pepper

Schinus terebinthifolia

After foraging in Punta Gorda with Green Deane, Brazilian pepper seems to pop up everywhere (as invasives do). The plan is to roast and grind the sweet and spicy berries, then sprinkle over popcorn.

Schinus terebinthifolia

Click here for more about a storied ornamental listed on the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed List.

Swamp Lily

Crinum americanum

Billy Creek Preserve and Filter Marsh

Blocks from strip malls on four lanes of fifty mile an hour traffic straddling a median crossed at dawn and dusk by Guatemalan day laborers rests fifty-six acres of marsh designed and engineered to clean and filter water destined for the Caloosahatchee. It’s a rad place to ride your bike.

Billy Creek Preserve and Filter Marsh

Click here for more about the preserve.

Ephemeral Ghost Pipe


Monotropa uniflora

The illusive rows of ghostly flowers are actually a fungus feeding on fungi that’s feeding on tree roots. They’re epiparasites, or parasites sourcing nutrients from other parasites.


Monotropa unifloraHiawa

Eastern Native American tribes once used ghost pipe as an anticonvulsive and painkiller.



Taraxacum officinale


Kalanchoe daigremontiana


Portulaca oleracea


Succulents and dandelions reclaim sandy soil from a tired, cracking tennis court. In the words of author Richard Powers, “There’s always as much belowground as above.”