Florida Green for St. Patrick's Day
Ok, so I guess Florida would be green even if it wasn't St. Patrick's Day this week. . .but the Debary Dinosaur got dressed up for the occasion so I had to feature some more photos of him.
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Check out that Project Runway-ready sequined shirt and tie, and the tail piece. I don't know what you call the tail piece but its definitely fashion forward.
Delicate Green Waters
The jewel of Green Springs, a 36 acre park in Enterprise, Florida, is its large and deep sulphur spring. Get close to the spring and you can smell the rotten egg-aroma. In the past it has been known variously as Green Sulphur Spring and Green Spring, without an s. For ages it has struck people as exotic and strange. A guidebook author once called its waters "green as the greenest paint," but other sensed something ethereal. More than one visitor marveled at the "delicate green" view.
Once thought to be "bottomless," Green Springs actually has lateral vents and a widening shaft that descends 76 feet to a silt-covered limestone floor. Algae and sulphur affect the spring's color, but dry spells (like our current 6 weeks with zero rain) can darken the water and even halt the discharge. When the spring is running, its waters join a small creek that drains other springs in the area, eventually flowing into Lake Monroe on the St. Johns River. The retaining wall that is hard to see at present dates from the 1940s, when owners of a swimming concession replaced the natural outlet to create a shallow area for children.
The cast of characters who have lived and visited here is a long one: Florida natives, Seminole Wars soldiers, and a colorful developer and hustler. Cornelius Taylor promoted his spring in the 1840s, offering bottled water and promises of good health. Decades later, the area still drew visitors from far and near—and local legedns persisted. One farmer claimed that Green Springs had popped up overnight, after dynamiters drained another spring to the north. Others told of a wagon falling into the spring, then emerging from a vent in the ocean.
Weird, Wild, Luxuriant Nature
The truth is, mystery has always been part of the Green Springs experience. Traveling to Enterprise in the 1860s, one visitor wondered if she had left America and entered some foreign realm. Outside her hotel lay a land of "weird, wild, luxuriant nature."
The Spring-to-Spring Trail and the Rail Trail, part of Florida's network of hiking, biking and walking trails, meet under the thick canopy of Green Springs.
Orange Fever and Green Springs
Throughout the park there are orange trees, here and there, that have somehow survived. They are relics. Since the 1840s, citrus trees have always grown on these lakeside lands. A New York Times correspondent found bearing trees at Old Enterprise in 1843 and learned that they had been producing for years. Somewhat later, just after the Civil War, another traveler reported seeing "lovely orange groves" near the spring. In the 1880s wealthy snowbird and landowner Frederick deBary built drainage ditches (including several that still exist in Green Springs Park) for his orange-growing venture. Well into the 20th century, people still planted citrus trees here.
Dating the park's surviving orange trees is difficult because Florida had killer freezes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Two infamous events in 1894 and 1895 wiped out many area groves. Easier to say is how these lands contributed to Florida's best-known product—a crop that caught the imagination of tourists, investors, and settlers. Green Springs played a small part in "orange fever."
Today, what remains of old growth oranges in most of Florida is diseased and dying, afflicted by the Asian import disease, Huanglongbing bacteria (Citrus Greening).
Looking up into the thick hammock canopy of towering Live Oaks and Sabal Palms of Green Springs it is amazing to think that this still exists as development creeps up on the park from every direction from the fast-growing bedroom city of Deltona. Listen hard and you can hear the din of traffic in the distance racing in and out toward Orlando.
The DeBary Connection
Green Springs had many owners after Cornelius Taylor first claimed these lands in 1842. Certinly the most exotic were the deBarys, New York wine merchants who wintered near Enterprise starting in the 1870s (see their mansion at Florida's Cultural Treasures). European-born Frederick deBary and his son Adolphe not only built a showy vacation house at the heart of their vast hunting estate (where we now live) they also acquired Green Springs and its well-known shell mound.
Most deBary lands lay west of here, in what is now the City of DeBary. family members and guests ranged over the country, hunting quail, fishing, and exploring on horseback and in wagons. For lovers of the outdoors, Old Enterprise would have been a natural destination.
Not that the deBarys were great preservers of their scenic proprty. A visitor in 1885 found them clearing and draining the land for orange groves. And the visitor report that two-thirds of the shell mound had been carted off for fertilizer and walks. "Man erected it, " he said, "and man is digging it up."
One of the many streams that are flowing through the park. There did not appear to be much flow from the main spring so this is coming from adjacent smaller vents or from the City of Deltona, as I previously said, it has not rained in 6 weeks and everything is miserably dry.
Imagine: Settlers and Sightseers
More than 6,000 years ago, native Floridians occupied the lands that make up Green Springs Park. Along with some of North America's oldest pottery, these hunting and fishing people left a large shell mound stretching from Lake Monroe to what is now Braddock Road, at the north end of the park. Today, little remains of the great mound. Traces of the midden can still be seen at ground level, but its top is long gone, carted off for fertilizer and road building.
The disappearance of this landmark would have surprised earlier visitors, including Seminole Wars soldiers stationed at Fort Kingbury, and 1830s long stockade on the lake's north shore. Its location made sense because key trails converge here, and the shell mound offered a lookout.
High ground and mineral springs also caught the eye of Cornelius Taylor, a tough, restless veteran and timber agent who obtained land grants, led a colonizing party in 1842, and built an inn on the shell mound. Called Enterprise, his small settlement drew tourists as well as "invalids" hoping for healing in Taylor's springs.
When Cornelius Taylor moved away in 1847, "Old Enterprise" faded, but not the lure of special lands he had opened to travelers. After the Civil War, even more steamboat tourists flocked to interior Florida and Jacob Brock's new Enterprise, a half mile west of here. One of their favorite outings (from the 1870s into the 20th century) continued to be visiting Green Spring's mysterious grounds.
Things to Avoid
First, getting lost. There are few signs in the park. I know there is development all around and lake on one side so I figured I would sooner-or-later come out to something that looked familiar, so I trekked straight through the forest. Others might get confused or decide to take a break in the lush forest undergrowth. That would be the other thing to avoid. . . poisonous plants.
Above, I'm pretty sure these is a thicket of Brazilian Pepper. It is not as large as most Brazilian Pepper but it is under a thick canopy so that may explain why this Schinus terebinthefolius has not grown taller. I'm sure someone will correct me but I'm guessing what it is. Some people find this plants toxins to be quite uncomfortable. It is in the Family Anacardiaceae which includes (below) poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. All of these plants may cause a rash or other problems if one is allergic. I am not, and so I used my hand below for scale.
Just walking through this ground cover of poison ivy and poison oak might be enough to send some running to the ER.
There are only 28 parking spaces in the park so crowds are generally not a problem though on one visit last summer I encountered a gang of unruly kids jumping in the springs which is expressly prohibited. Not only are the spring waters contaminated with bacteria, like nearby Gemini Springs, there is also no lifeguard or other supervision on site.
Lake Monroe Boat Ramp and Park
I'm calling the image above "Happy Birds." It was luck that I caught them all soaring toward the sun.
Across Enterprise/Osteen Road from the spring is Lake Monroe on the St. Johns River. There is a nice little park with a boat ramp if sunshine is more to your liking. I come here to collect the floating invasive plants (water lettuce, hyacinth, hydrilla) you see in the image below for my koi ponds. The plants get stuck in the docks and make for easy picking.
The day after I made these images I went back for more plants and they were all gone. The wind had shifted and blown them all across the lake toward Sanford, Florida.
The lake appears endless, but in terms of lake size in Florida Lake Monroe is only a mid-sized lake at some 15 square miles.
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