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Garden Key

fort, plants, species, southern and iva

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This island is the second largest in the group and to a considerable extent is occupied by that antiquated, massive old brick structure, Fort Jefferson (plate 4). Almost all the history and tradition of this remote group of islands centers about Garden Key and the fort. As a fitting corollary to this, it also has the largest and richest flora in point of species of any of the keys.

A glance at the map shows that the island on the northeast side pro jects beyond the walls of the fort by a short arm, with the ruins of a series of coal-sheds and loading-trestles on its eastern side.

The southern side has quite a large extension outside the walls and on it are likewise ruined coal-sheds, a covered dock, and several old sheds, formerly pumping-houses, etc.; this portion also has the larger number of species. This is probably due to the fact that it is larger than the northern projection and hence had a larger number of build ings and people on it, and also to the fact that the dock is on this southern side and all persons and commodities entering the fort passed over this strip of land to the sally-port.

The northern strip or arm of the island has a well-mixed assemblage of species, in which Tournefortia, Iponwea, and Canavalia predominate, with some Uniola, Sccevola, and Iva. Over a tangled mass of iron rods and girders, the ruins of a loading-crane at the coal sheds, there is a luxuriant growth of Calonyction and several stout young bushes of Guilandina crista. Scattered along the western side, near the moat, are numerous Leptilon canadense plants.

On the eastern side of the fort, outside of the east coal-sheds on the narrow strip of soil between the moat and the beach, there was an extensive area of Glottidium vescarium plants, very luxuriant and of stout, tall growth. Just at the southwest corner of these eastern coal sheds are two well-grown Rhizophora mangle trees, about 2 meters tall, which had flowers and fruits in 1916. On this strip also occur Sporobo lus, Sccevola, Suriana, Chamceayce, Iva, and a few plants of Calonyction.


the southeast corner of the fort is approached, the increase in species is apparent as one gets nearer the walk leading to the sally-port. In addition to the above species, masses of Alternanthera maritima and Sesuvium are seen, together with large quantities of the rather showy blue-flowered Valerianoides jamaicense and the long, shining, dark green, blade-like leaves of Hymenocallis. Scattered with these are

Lepidium, Argemone, and Portulaca.

Most of the species lie to the left of the walk on going in to the sally port. Here are numerous grasses, Paspalum, Syntherisma, Capriola, as well as Uniola and Cenchrus, which were likewise noted along the eastern side. Sporobolus, also, is fairly abundant and some of the sedge Cyperus brunneus. Near the old tumbled-in cistern are masses of Calonyction, Hymenocallis, Iponura, and the castor-oil plant, Ricinus communis, resembling trees, some being 10 to 15 feet tall, and with these many plants of Leptilon, Ipomcea, and Iva. Along the curving shore between the dock and the southern coal-shed were several young trees of Thespesia and Suriana. These are probably self-sown in the rather sheltered nook. Along the inner side of the coal-sheds among ballast were many plants of Sonchus oleraceus and Leptilon, which are in reality ballast plants. Stretching along the ridge of sand on the western side of the southern projection is a thick association of Uniola interspersed with Leptilon, Cenchrus, Iva, and Canavalia.

On the inner side, near the moat, is a mixture of

Bidens leucantha, Melanthera brevifolia, Boerhaavia viscosa, Sccevola, and Chamance. On the westernmost side of this area was found the only station for Chamcesyce hypericifolia in the entire Tortugas. These low-tufted, grayish plants grow thickly under several Tournefortia bushes.

Southwest of the southern angle of the fort are several large patches of Opuntia and a single Avicenna nitida tree. This black mangrove is the sole representative of the species on the island. Lansing mentions 30 of these trees having been planted inside the fort, but these must have perished, for not a vestige of them remains. This tree, which is about 2.5 meters tall, is probably a seedling drifted in by the waves or from seed carried in ballast from Key West. On the southern shore, near the dock, are numerous small patches of Atriplex criatata.

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