Lined Treesnail and Its Giant Spider Pal
Florida scrub is home to even better creatures than the plants: gopher tortoises, red widows, scrub jays, and so much more, not that scrub habitats are a joy to visit on a Florida summer afternoon. It all started while looking for a way to put an hour to good use waiting for my wife’s business in the Boynton Beach City Hall. I drifted to the nearby Seacrest Scrub, which led to a hot sweaty followup stopover in the Jupiter Inlet scrub today with tree snails on my mind.
Guarding the trailhead this Tropical Orbweaver was the size of a small frog, encountered while searching for tree snails. The spider spreads a wide web by night, and is a sleeping giant by day, cuddling up with its legs pressed together on the undersides of curled leaves. It can “tuck itself in” with silk pajamas. After this distraction, on to the tree snails.
Florida is home to a beautifully patterned tree snails with dozens of color variants in multiple genera. They are more numerous around Miami and in the Keys where long ago they became a non-horticultural intersection between two early Miami horticultural Illinois-native transplanted titans, viz:
Titan 1. William Krome (1876-1929) was the main construction engineer responsible for building the 128-mile overseas railroad out to the Florida Keys. He also was an avid horticulturist, mainly interested fruit growing. Krome’s homestead became a UF Research and Education Center where the breeding system of avocados was discovered.
Titan 2. Charles Torrey Simpson (1846-1932) was a colorful, multifaceted, storied individual with several chapters in his life, a couple of them a little tainted. Long story short, two points interest us today. Simpson’s main career was a malacologist, a biologist who studies snails. His main (long) retirement second career was a rock star horticulturist/naturalist in the burgeoning Miami community. Simpson was something of an environmental activist when it suited him, although he had no problem raiding natural areas to help himself to orchids and other native plants.
Snail-hunting Simpson used Krome’s new railroad bridges and clearings for access to unexplored tree snail habitats, but at the same time, I believe, as an eyewitness, he disliked Krome’s destruction of the fragile Keys habitats. (I cannot put my finger on it, but I think he criticized the RR habitat destruction in the Miami Herald. His general attitude on FL habitat destruction relative to the snails is mixed with description of walking the RR line in the Keys in the attachment at the end of the blog.) Divine retribution for destroying even such modest works of Creation as snails was the 1935 Hurricane crumbling much of the overseas railroad into the sea.
Anyhow, it is fun and rare to spot a tree snail here and now, on a Hog-Plum (Ximenia americana) in the local scrub. They are not hurting the tree, but rather consume algae and lichens from the bark.
To dig in deeper: