Plants at Historic Spanish Point: a unique environment preserved
Historic Spanish Point is not only the premier historic site museum in Sarasota County, it is also an environmental museum. The location on the shores of Little Sarasota Bay offers the unique opportunity to view different habitats as well as plant and tree combinations. Native plants representing over 50% of the species found in the county can be enjoyed along the nature trails and boardwalks, including a pristine mangrove shoreline. The Butterfly Garden, one of the largest in Florida, attracts not only avid photographers, but many species of insects and birds. In fact, we get so many birds on the site we participate in bird counts for the county in the winter season.
The outdoor museum actively preserves and interprets the Florida native environment. The natural ecosystems experienced include; pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, tropical hammocks, mangrove swamps, tidal marshes, and coastal beaches. Some of this variety can be attributed to the changes in elevation created by the prehistoric shell middens.
Prehistoric people relied on plants to supplement their seafood diet. Plants were also highly important for many other uses like fuel, fiber, building materials, soaps, dyes, medicines and for use in religious ceremonies. Fruits and starches could be gathered along with acorns and nuts. Leafy plants like pickerel weed (seen at left) were often harvested from wetlands for use as food and dye. Wood items are rarely found intact at archaeological sites like Historic Spanish Point, but we can assume that prehistoric people used available wood for bowls, paddles, building materials, canoes, cooking utensils, tool and weapon handles, and religious symbols. It can also be assumed that due to the importance of plants and trees, they had a name and use for all in their surroundings.
Examples of over 50% of the tree species native to the region can be found on the property. Chief among them is the ecologically important mangrove which grows along the shoreline in an unspoiled habitat. All three species of mangrove are represented. As well as other important coastal trees and plants. Take the walk across Cock’s Footbridge which not only affords terrific views of the bay, but the opportunity to see all of the types and environments of the coastal hammock. Recently, a wetlands reclamation project was completed with the removal of invasive non-native vegetation and the addition of a proper wetland ecosystem.
The creation in 2004 of a beautiful Butterfly Garden added a contemporary garden to the historic site. It has grown and expanded in the last four years to be one of the largest and most beautiful on gulf coast Florida. Garden clubs and master gardeners as well as bird watchers and butterfly enthusiasts journey to Historic Spanish Point each month to explore the colorful garden. Seasonal seminars and tours by volunteer horticulturists will help you to attract butterflies add color to your landscape and learn about the native plants or our region.