A Coconut Grows in Bokeelia

Cocos nucifera

It takes about a month for the verdant shoot to emerge, so this one likely washed ashore while Hurricane Ian spread millions of tons of natural and man-made debris from Manatee to Collier County (and beyond).

Bokeelia is a tiny island community on Pine Island settled by the Calusa Indians, a doomed advanced coastal society that relied heavily on fishing and shellfish.

Henry Ford came along in the 1920s and purchased land on Bokeelia for a fishing village. He also built a large dock and a hotel on the island, and he established a botanical garden. The village never took off, and a hurricane destroyed the the hotel in the 1940s.

In the 1960s and 70s, the island began attracting retirees and vacationers. Many homes were built as it became a popular destination for boating and fishing. Today, Bokeelia is a small community of permanent residents and many more seasonal visitors. Pine Island’s scenic routes and trails, including flat terrain, winding paths through nature preserves, palm nurseries, mango farms, and picturesque coastal roads make it a rad place to ride your bike year-round.

Bokeelia is also home to several parks and preserves, including the Randell Research Center, an archaeological non-profit researching the Calusa Tribe.

Biking the Pahayokee

Shark Valley Bike Trail

The Shark Valley Bike Trail is a ~fifteen mile loop in the Florida Everglades. Pahayokee is the Seminole word for the region, which means “grassy waters.” (Marjory Stoneman Douglas had a similar thought.)

Ardea herodias

Among others, alligators, park rangers, Athenian expats, great blue herons, Germans, fish, French Canadians, pig frogs, turtles, and Midwesterners mingle in the summer heat.

Shark Valley Bike Trail

Cyclists meander to the midpoint of the trail, a forty-five foot observation tower providing panoramic views from the highest elevation in the Everglades.

Shark Valley Bike Trail

Before ascending the concrete loop, massive cocoplum bushes offer up trailside nibbles.

Shark Valley Bike Trail

Shark Valley Bike Trail

Shark Valley Observation Tower

Shark Valley Bike Trail

Macro vistas stun.

Ipomoea sagittata

So do the micro ones.

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


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





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



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


Next is a ride through the Robinson Preserve.


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





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


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


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




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



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.


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


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


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



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


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