Toxic Algae at My House – Again

 

 

 

Here is what we are seeing around the Greater Stuart, Florida area this week. Yes, it’s back – the Toxic Bluegreen Algae.

The last time I wrote about toxic algae was the Summer of 2016. Our beaches were closed over the Fourth of July weekend because the water was polluted by blooming bluegreen algae – cyanobacteria that spawns toxic Microcystin if it blooms. I am not certain the toxic part is well understood, the toxins (among them microcystin) can cause rashes, upset stomach, breathing difficulties and are implicated in causing ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease) and non alcohol related liver disease. Oh, by the way, the area I live in has the largest unexplained cluster of liver disease in the country. Many people drink and bathe in well water. Follow link below for more information.

Liver Disease info

Florida Sows Sewage

How does the algae get to my house, you may wonder.  It comes down the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee where the State of Florida brews a toxic stew in the Lake and the Federal Government’s Corps of Engineers open the floodgates to prevent flooding downstream. Who is responsible – no one entity. The toxic stew is caused partially by poor land development management and storm runoff measures and the continuation by the state of Florida allowing large Agricultural entities to sow partially treated human sewage (Class B Biosolids) as fertilizer on enormous swaths of land. Then the state doesn’t inspect, regulate or oversee any of it. Best Management Practices BMPs, (practices that are developed to prevent nutrient runoff from fertilizers -nutrients feed algae) – Agricultural BMPs are in place in Florida but were rolled back to voluntary by the current gang in power.

Would you get a driver’s license if there were no requirements, meaning voluntary? Think about it.

Class B Biosolids are currently under consideration as the culprit in the impending ruination one of the last pristine lakes in Florida, Blue Cypress Lake. Toxic Bluegreen Algae is keeping everyone out of the water there this summer.  Interestingly, the practice of spreading biosolids was outlawed in two out of three of the nearby watersheds due to problems with phosphorous (nutrient) pollution. Ironically, the sewage polluting Blue Cypress Lake originates in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and is used as fertilizer to grow Bahiagrass to feed cattle 200 miles north.

Blue Cypress Lake

Cattle Produce Manure, a lot of Manure

About one quarter of the land area in Florida is agricultural. In addition to all the fertilizer used to grow grass for grazing and crops, there are 1.6 million head of cattle in the state, producing 67 pounds of manure each daily on average. We are drowning our water resources in sewage. To what end.

The end of tourism – a 67 Billion Dollar Industry?  Tourists really like clean water.

The end of land development – 6 million additional residents are projected by 2030! They are going to have to poop somewhere  and they like clean water, too.

The end of Agriculture – how much sewage can you sow before your nest is fouled? Plants and animals like clean water, too.

As for me, I like clean water and can only opine that something needs to change, soon and drastically. Our experience this year with our government and leaders thus far has been nothing short of tragic.

An email to my County Commissioner (from last week) – unanswered. Really kind of strange, if I had to name the most hated person in Martin County, he would be at the top of nearly everyone’s list I have encountered locally. I have never met the guy.

The State Department of Environmental Protection – answered but is not testing all algae sites reported. Our community has a toxic algae Facebook page. That the DEP admitted to reading. More than strange, they read our social media yet don’t follow upon algae sightings.

The State said the County Commissioners should issue health warnings about the algae, the County said the State Health Department should issue health warnings about the algae. Our Facebook community started a change.org petition to get our county to post signs about the algae.

The scuttlebutt from Martin County was the algae wasn’t toxic enough to issue warnings. It is toxic but not toxic enough.

I would never have imagined the entire chain of command for the State of Florida, charged with protecting our life safety cannot even be bothered to post warning signs near swimming areas.

When Florida sows sewage, algae blooms in our estuary.

Toxic Government?

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In A Vase on Monday – Tropical Serendipity

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The rainy season is in full swing in my garden. Heat and humidity rule the great outdoors. The truly tropical plants love it and are starting their summer show. Two out of the four plants in the arrangement just appeared in the garden, I am not sure this ever happened in my previous garden, serendipitous shrubs and perennials placing themselves perfectly – garden karma. Patience rewards the gardener, I suppose. I rarely pull anything out unless I am sure it is not welcome.

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The white flowers in the arrangement are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani, the red and yellow are Parrottflowers (Heliconia psittacorum). I planted both of these and they are finally recovering from the double whammy of Hurricane Irma and mid thirties (Fahrenheit) temperatures in January. The other two just appeared. I have embraced the Asparagus Fern for use in arrangements, a better filigreed texture cannot be found and  it is the perfect foil for the coarser tropical flowers. It grows under some shrubs in my Rainforest garden. The red plant is a Java Glorybower (Clerodendrum speciosis), I cut one of these last year and dumped it out beside my front porch – where it rooted perfectly centered on an 8 foot peach colored blank stucco wall. If I had tried to do that it would not have worked. The shrubs grow about six feet tall and I am looking forward to seeing it in its glory. bower. There are Orange Bird of Paradise in front of these. Mother Nature is wise.

On the butterfly front, I have a chrysalis in my herb pot. The Swallowtails have nearly consumed the Parsley. In the picture you can see young and old caterpillars and a green chrysalis. It seems it take weeks for the Butterfly to emerge…

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In A Vase on Monday – Brain Prunings

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Last week I found myself a bit overloaded with work. One landscape design project in South Florida, another 600 miles north. Palm trees on one plan, Azaleas on another. My brain is as crowded with plants as my garden. Both needed some pruning. The Firebush was looking overgrown, so I wanted to cut some flowers to use in the arrangement, only to find really weird bugs on the foliage I didn’t want in the house. I dumped most of the cuttings into a recycling bag.

The rest went into my vase. The Soap Aloe was looking really weird with the flowering Ixora.

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Yes, contrast lacking there? I think so. The Soap Aloe went into the vase.

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The Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria) and one stem of Firebush (Hamelia patens) are joined by: in red, Red Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana); a few Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum); and some Asparagus Ferns.

My brain needed some additional pruning. Palm trees on which plan??

If you would like to see more vases from around the world, follow this link, on Monday morning:ramblinginthegarden

In A Vase on Monday – Butterfly Bouquet

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My native pollinator garden continues to amaze. I saw eight different kinds of butterflies this morning and decided to pick a bouquet of their favorite flowers. My husband, not a gardener at all, has even noticed the butterfly brigade. I am certain Gertrude Jekyll would be appalled by the color scheme, but I am enjoying the melange of colors and butterflies. I am carrying my phone around to take pictures – a comedy in itself. Chasing butterflies through the garden at my age.

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The vase is the remaining half of a pair of Dansk candle holders from the 1970s. It’s friend is lost to history. The Blue Willow plate a recent acquisition. The flowers are: pink powderpuffs, Sunshine Mimosa (botanical name changed too many times); orange firecrackers are from the Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens); red and yellow flowers Gallardias (Galllardia pulchella); red spikes courtesy of Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); blue flowers from Porterweed and a few sprigs of Parsley for the foliage.

The Black Swallowtail Butterfly lays eggs in Parsley and Fennel, along with other plants. My pot of Parsley and herbs has eggs and two stages of caterpillars right now. The lower photo is the Black Swallowtail, I am hoping to watch the caterpillars progress.

In A Vase on Monday – Memorial Day

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Monday marks the beginning of summer in the US with the first holiday weekend of the season, Memorial Day.  Memorial Day honors those who have served our country. My nephew, Jake is currently serving in the Army. My father served during World War I and my oldest brother, Warren during the Vietnam War. Thank you to all who served.

My vase this Monday reflects our flag. Red, white and blue in a red vase. The first named storm of the season, Alberto, is blowing through this weekend , so I tiptoed through the thunderstorms and wind to pick flowers.

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The vase is sitting on the cabinet that holds my father’s crystal collection. In the vase – in blue, Plumbago (Plumbage auriculata), Angelonia (rescued from the death rack at Lowe’s); in red, spikes of Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); Coral Plant (Jatropha of some sort); in white Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divericata) and spikes from the Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata) and a white Tropical Red Salvia (it happens).The American flag was crocheted by my mother in law many years ago.

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I have been writing about my native pollinator garden. I witnessed my first butterfly birth this weekend. I am fairly certain this started from the Corky Passionflower in the garden. This is a Gulf Fritillary butterfly, it emerged from it chrysalis, sat for a while then dried its wings and flew away. I had some difficulty getting a clear picture.

In A Vase on Monday- Fire and Rain

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I have seen rain this week, every day, off and on, all day long. My husband is grumpy, the dogs are grumpy and I am getting gardening stir crazy. But, the Firebush is very happy and flowering magnificently.

If anyone remembers James Taylor’s song Fire and Rain here’s a link, before you click on the link realize there is always advertising and I had nothing to do with it: James Taylor. 

I decided a vintage copper teapot filled with warm colored flowers was necessary to lift my dreary spirits. After trimming some fiery flowers, I donned my red plastic raincoat and headed into the garden to see what I could find to join the Firebush. My greyhounds declined the offer to join me and sulked in their (sort of) dry beds.

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My neighbor’s Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) long ago left its bounds and was hanging down over a hedge that grows between us. Beaten down from all the rain (myself, my husband,my dogs and the Mexican Flame Vine) I cut a few stems to drape over the side of the teapot. Then I discovered some Tropical Red Sage flowers (Salvia coccinea) for the back of the arrangement; added some Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); and found a few Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum). I have been missing the Parrotflowers. Hurricane Irma followed by a mid thirties temperature in January nearly did them in. The few I found are about half the size they were last year. The flowers and foliage from the flourishing Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens) filled the framework of the flower arrangement. Say that 10 times fast.

Here is a close up of the flowers:

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It is raining again. The good news is the Frangipani loves it and I have my first blooms this year.

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Happy Gardening!