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Sarasota News Leader December 21, 2012 Recently, some of us Northern ���transplants��� agreed that if we spent the rest of our days poking around Florida, we could never tire of its magnificent array of landscapes, plants and wildlife. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory lists 81 ecosystems ��� the most of any state ��� 750 springs, 7,800 lakes and 1,700 rivers and streams.��� Florida is the most biologically diverse state east of the Mississippi. According to the Florida Ornithological Society, 512 species of birds occur here. Two hundred sixteen species have been observed at Sarasota���s Celery Fields near Fruitville Road. More than 4,000 native and naturalized plants grow in Florida, a result of the land���s unique shape, location and climate ���temperate in the north; subtropical in the Keys. With more spring-like days than most places, wildflowers bloom year-round. Even in winter, you can rely on blanket flower, bright yellow partridge-pea and the pink blooms of sensitive briar ��� just a few of a long list ��� sprinkled here and there in area parks. Cheery tickseed blooms along trails in the coldest weather at Myakka River State Park, where you can hike miles through pine woods, prairies and wetlands. In fall, acres of wildflowers and grasses billow across the flatwoods at Oscar Scherer State Park. As I drive out the park gates, I ask myself, is magnificent abundance only an illusion?��� Sometimes I think there is more of the real Florida left in the books I check out of Selby Library. In the 1770s, William Bartram reveled in the boundless cornucopia of plants and animals he found in Florida, which he documented in Travels, an account of his four-year pilgrimage through the Southeast.��� Page 52

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