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.

Palma Sola Bay to Sarasota Bay

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A bicycle tour south through Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key begins with great egrets, brown pelicans and an opportunistic gull.

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After grooming atop a pole, an agile resident settles into a standing split.

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Vying for scraps, a laughing gull plops down on a pelican’s back as it dives for mullet.

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Next is a ride through the Robinson Preserve.

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Stretches of paved path yield to elevated sections winding through mangrove forest.

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Hidden breaks in the forest lead to amazing vistas of the bay.

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A flock of white pelicans slowly bobs up and down until one notices a school of fish.

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An awkward orange, black and white ruckus erupts. The collective briefly takes flight.

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Crashing down onto one another, the frenzy lasts maybe a minute (but it doesn’t appear that many catch a snack).

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Compared to Robinson, Perico Preserve is a smaller and younger restoration project. Bikes are restricted to a small loop, but the route includes curious flora and fauna, including fallen trees and sharp turns.

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Drivers and cyclists on Manatee Avenue are forced to take in the view as a yacht lumbers through the drawbridge over Anna Maria Sound.

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More avian natives eye tourists from a weathered jetty on Coquina Beach.

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Taking such subjective advice in Florida (and across the US) is hard these days.

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A dune daisy blooms below one of many towering resorts occupying Longboat Key.

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The day’s ride begins and ends on Palma Sola Bay.