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July - September, 2017  ~  Volume 5, Issue 3
Each month Wetlands staff spends many hours collecting water quality data and delivering samples to the City of Orlando’s Environmental Laboratory. Routinely, water samples are collected at the influent and outfall of the Wetlands, all internal control structures, at groundwater monitoring wells, and the St Johns River both upstream and downstream of the Park. The laboratory analyzes these samples and reports are generated.  Over time, the data depicts trends in the water quality of the Wetlands.  Each year, data is summarized in the Compliance and Performance Review for the Wetlands report.  Published recently, the 2016 summary report can be viewed at .

In 2016, water quality exiting the Wetlands Park continued to be well below allowable standards. For example, total nitrogen is allowed to be discharged at 2.31 mg/L, but the Wetlands discharge averaged 0.80 mg/L. Total Phosphorus can be discharged at 0.20 mg/L and the Wetlands averaged 0.051 for 2016.  Throughout the OWP’s 30 year history, water quality is markedly improved from the influent to the final discharge. Total nitrogen and total
phosphorus concentrations leaving the OWP were also lower than those observed upstream from the Park in the St Johns River (measured at State Road 50). 

For 2016 the Wetlands successfully treated over 5.3 billion gallons of reclaimed water.  All of the data that is collected continues to depict a project that successfully polishes reclaimed water, provides a home to thousands of wildlife species as well as a great educational resource for Park visitors.

By Mark Sees
Kathryn Slayton, Environmental Specialist III, collects samples of water from one of the Park's control structures. 

Barred Owl

Strix varia

Florida Butterfly Orchid

Encyclia tampensis

Spotted Water Hemlock

Cicuta maculata


Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Sondra Driscoll is a tour guide and interpretive specialist at the Orlando Wetlands Park where she loves to share the beauty of the wetlands and show people the real, wild and natural Florida. She especially likes the Park because the concept for it was so forward-thinking at the time of its creation. Sondra is also an active volunteer with Florida Native Plant Society where she recently served on the committee for their annual conference. Additionally, she is a member of Orange Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Florida Wildflower Foundation where she has recently been commended for her work with FDOT preserving wildflowers along highways 50 and 520. When not volunteering, Sondra enjoys reading, music, hiking through Florida’s mysterious places,
working on her organic vegetable garden and converting her lawn into a native plant landscape. A poem that reflects Sondra’s strong feelings about our stewardship of this planet is "Your Relationship with Nature Speaks Volumes About You" by Francis Duggan. She encourages everyone to read it! Thanks Sondra for all that you do here at the Orlando Wetlands Park!

Interested in volunteering at the Park? 
Speak with one of our volunteers or contact the Public Awareness Specialist at

Friends of the Orlando Wetlands (FOW) is a citizen support organization for the City of Orlando's Orlando Wetlands Park. Its mission is to assist the City of Orlando employees in providing educational opportunities to increase community awareness support and appreciation of the park and its wildlife. For more information about becoming a volunteer, please visit our website

Southern Live Oak 
(Quercus viginiana)

Trees play an important role by providing food and shelter for a wide variety of plants and animals.  At Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP), one very important tree for wildlife is the Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) sometimes called the Virginia Live Oak.  It is found in the park's forested upland areas. 
The Southern Live Oak is a member of the Beech family (Fagaceae) with 28 species native to Florida, 25 of which are oaks.  Oaks bloom in the spring and are wind-pollinated.  The male flowers are located on long clusters (the catkins).   From the inconspicuous female flower, the acorn develops.  The Southern Live Oak usually grows to about 60 feet in height.  The Florida Champion Southern Live Oak is 85 feet.  The branches are wide-spreading, with crown spread sometimes exceeding height.  Leaves are dark green, usually 2-3 inches in length. 
Southern Live Oaks are often covered in epiphytes such as Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides), the nesting site for Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers.  Besides Spanish Moss, other epiphytes found on Southern Live Oaks include lichens, mosses, ferns and orchids.  Hundreds of insects feed on Southern Live Oak.  An entire family of gall-inducing wasps (Cynipidae) feeds exclusively on oaks.  Bringing Nature Home, written by Doug Tallamy, reported on research that found oaks to support more caterpillars (534 species) than any other trees.  Those oak-fed caterpillars are vital foods to many songbirds with 96% of songbirds feeding invertebrates, often caterpillars, to their young.  In addition to supporting songbirds, Southern Live Oaks provide nest sites for hawks, woodpeckers, owls and a wide variety of mammals such as Flying Squirrels.  The Southern Live Oak acorn is an important source of food for Wild Turkey, Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Florida Black Bear and White-tailed Deer.   
The Southern Live Oak was an important lumber used in the ship building industry.  Now humans find oaks important primarily as ornamental trees.  Those who chose oaks for their landscapes may accidentally enrich their lives with the wildlife oaks bring.

Text and photos by Randy Snyder and Mary Keim

Leaves and male flowers (catkins)

Bark furrows and epiphytes
Eastern Pondhawk 
(Erythmus simplici)

The Park provides great habitat for Odonates (damselflies and dragonflies).  There are at least 33 species of dragonflies at the park.  Of these documented species, 22 are skimmers (Family Libellulidae).  One of the most abundant is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Note the bright green face! (see image)
It is medium sized (about 1.5 to 2 inches long).  Immatures and adult females are green, while the adult males are blue.  Both sexes have unmarked, clear wings and bright green faces.  But don't let the cute faces fool you, Eastern Pondhawks are so named because they are ferocious dragonflies, sometimes cannabalistic and sometimes consuming prey larger than themselves.
Eastern Pondhawk eating a Bar-winged Skimmer
Female Eastern Pondhawk
Female Eastern Pondhawks deposit eggs under water amongst aquatic vegetation.  The eggs hatch into aquatic nymphs (naiads).  Nymphs live for many months in stillwater and slow-moving water such as OWP's wetland cells, eating mostly aquatic invertebrates. The nymph eventually climbs out of the water, usually onto emergent aquatic vegetation, and then the adult emerges from the nymph's exoskeleton and inflates its wings.  After the wings dry, the pondhawk is ready to fly!
As you walk the OWP berms, look for Eastern Pondhawks.  They will sometimes follow along with you, to hunt insects that you disturb.  Enjoy the dragonflies!
Text and photos by Randy Snyder
Male Eastern Pondhawk
The 27th annual Christmas, FL Butterfly Count was held Saturday, June 17, 2017.  The count is sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association ( that publishes the counts.  The count circle has a 15-mile diameter.  It includes Orlando Wetlands Park, Tosohatchee W.M.A. Seminole Ranch Conservation Area and Hal Scott Preserve. 

The Orlando Wetlands Park team counted 181 individuals representing 27 butterfly species.  The most abundant species was the Viceroy with 25 individuals.  For a list of Orlando Wetlands Park butterflies from N.A.B.A. counts and other surveys, see
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
GUIDED TREE WALK at the Orlando Wetlands Park
Saturday, August 5, 2017 
8:30 am to 10:30 am

Take a guided two-mile walk with park volunteer and retired biology instructor, Mary Keim. Learn to identify trees and the features that distinguish them. The walk is free and for all ages; those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Bring water, wear close-toed shoes, and insect and sun protection. You may want to bring a sketchpad, camera, as well as binoculars to look at leaf details. Sign-in at the visitor kiosk and meet under the pavilion north of the restrooms. If you have questions, contact Mary at
Friends of the Orlando Wetlands will be available for tram tours on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:00 am. Tours are first come, first served. Seating capacity per tour is 14 people. No reservation required. Tours are free but donations are welcome!

For the most up-to-date information about public tour dates, programs and important park notifications, visit our website at
We will feature an exhibit "Trees & Shrubs of the Orlando Wetlands Park" during the months of July through September. Visit the center to explore live animals, hands-on displays, and incredible photographs by the Friends of the Orlando Wetlands! 
Copyright © 2017 Orlando Wetlands Park, All rights reserved.

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