Florida's natural wealth
ecological alligator
Archie Carr,
A Naturalist in Florida,

Themes, Contents, Summaries

"Because to anyone who has known Florida as long as I have, and whose main interest in the place has been its wild landscapes and wild creatures, the losses have been the most spectacular events of the past three decades... the waning has gone on apace without relenting anywhere"

p. xv

"Like all major writers, Carr can be read at two levels.... But, more deeply, he speaks for the generation that saw its perception of nature profoundly change.... Humanity has conquered the world, unfortunately, and saturated it."

Edward O. Wilson, p. xi.


"The history of Florida has been a desperate sort of striving...

for growth and development.... Inevitably it has dimmed the ...much of the natural charm... the favors of wild nature...."

The world we encounter is filled with animals who display remnant, adaptive behavior, that is; responsive actions to stimuli even once the initial conditions have long disappeared.

The memory of the genes -- as embedded information-- contains the characteristics of a world as it was and yet genes are more than the mere remains of the past. Genes are the means by which biological wealth accumulates and functions to preserve our world from eventually dissipating.


"Adventure is a state of mind."

Archie Carr

Finding humor in the most unlikely places reflecting "The intricate relationships of living things."

Places are imbued with spirits. If you listen carefully you can hear them; the birds by day and the frogs by night. All the character and texture of the varied topography and landscapes flavoring a spot are often well beyond the capacity of humans to imagine; although civilizations impart meaning, names and features to places when inhabiting areas long established as the haunt and minions of alligators, bears, fish, birds or recent arrivals such as the armadillo.




"What a joy still remains in the Florida landscape... the organization of the old landscapes has been disrupted, but scraps of it remain, and if your eye is turned toward the country, any venture... will turn up good things to see."


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Archie F. Carr (1909-1987)

A Naturalist in Florida: A celebration of Eden

edited by Marjorie Harris Carr

"This is a collection of the writings of Archie Carr over a span of fifty years," from 1937-1987.

Table of Contents

Wewa Pond

The Bird and the Behemoth

Jubilee pp. 22 - 39.

Sticky Heels

A Florida Picnic

All the way down upon the Suwannee River

Suwannee River Sturgeon

An Introduction to the Herpetology of Florida

Florida Vignettes

Tails of Lizards p. 100

Alligator Country

A subjective Key to the fishes of Elation County

Hound Magic

Carnivorous Plants

The Cold-blooded Fraternity

Living with an Alligator

A Moss Forest

In Praise of Snakes

Armadillo Dilemma

The Landscapes of Florida

Water Hyacinths


The Gulf Island Cottonmouths

A Dubious Future

Eden Changes

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Audubon's birds

Wewa Pond


"The unlikely apparition was a female anhinga…began beating the fish against the roots."

p. 1-2.
lakeside The Anhinga captures a fish, thanks to George Doub [ Rollins student] for the photograph.

"We-wa" is Seminole for water

p. 3-4.

the spirit of the place

Wewa pond is to the south side of their home near Micanopy

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The Bird and the Behemoth


"… the snowy heron remembers mastodons."

p. 14

Paynes Prairie

"I have seen the cranes dance there."


How history, time and technology reconstitute the land, but remnants, relicts and antiquated forms (fossil behaviors) remain extant.

"and what can it be but a sign of lost days and lost hosts that the genes of the bird remember."

p. 21.


"a time of ceremonial time... to celebrate the freeing of slaves and the righting of wrongs."


"they are announcing a Daphne Jubilee."

"…is like no other."

pp. 22-23.

"Daphne grew up in a hardwood hammock, and some of the old woods remain. Relict magnolias, hickories, and swoop-limbed live oaks hover over the little houses and let down a spattered mosaic of little patches of dark and light that dance or lie quiet according to the breeze."

"The coast is eroding there, and cypress trees, knees and ancient snags stand singly or in clumps along the sugar white sand or out in the gentle lap of the sea itself."

p. 23.

"All these diverse and unrelated creatures are simultaneously impelled by some mystic force to drop their affairs out in the bay and go to shore."

" a zone of water low in oxygen moves in from the depths of the bay and drives the animals before it."

"At Daphne, by contrast, the creatures come happily, firm-fleshed, and succulent, as if providentially sent to feed the people of the town."

"So the term jubilee, as applied to unusual congregations of aquatic animals, originated on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. But it seems appropriate for other congregations of aquatic animals that I have seen…"

"With David yelling at us to look, we looked, and we saw such a sight as I never saw before. There was a solid mass of thousands of little fishes, salamanders, and crayfish in the water…we could hardly see any water, the pool was so densely packed with animals."

"There were tens of thousands of little animals there."

p. 25.

"It was an incredible thing to see, a really unsettling thing."

That was my introduction to the Wacahoota Jubilee."

"To this day no satisfactory answer has been proposed."

p. 26.

"…and if the winter rains fail to come in February the fauna will be in serious ecologic trouble from overcrowding. If then a big rain floods the place, there might be a mass tendency to move out into new territory."

"It is at that point that my ignorance of the real cause of jubilees is laid bare."

p. 29.

"And sadly,… the Wacahoota Jubilees are finished....and apparently there will never be another."

p. 30.

Homosassa Jubilee, is inexplicable, mysterious and haunting.

p. 35.

"Thinking of the ecology and paleogeography of the St. Johns together like that makes the croakers in the croaker-hole seem less bizarre and tells why there are commercial blue crab fisheries in Lake George. It may also help to explain the small jubilees that form in the St. Johns River springs."

p. 38.

blue crabsBlue crabs in a basket, thanks to Kevin Dixon, alumnus, 2008.

"They are all beguiling mysteries of natural history."

p. 39.

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Sticky Heels

The first box turtle I ever saw was eating a cactus fruit on the plains of central Texas

gopher tortoise


A Florida Picnic

"the versatility and wisdom of crocodilians"

Comparison to his armadillo catching dog Ben


How does the alligator know?



All the way down upon the Suwannee River

"the river is not very well known....

It "was not the high road to anywhere."

"To this day the whole Suwannee Valley is a rural region of farms and small towns just beginning to feel pressure from the development rampant in the rest of the peninsula."


"A rural region of farms"

In the language of the Creek Nation of indigenous peoples [Indians], "suwannee" means "echo"

Timucua and Apalachee indigenous nations' [Indian people] borderlands were defined by the Suwannee River.


Bartram's description of Suwannee River Indians navigation skills during his 1773 visit to Manatee Springs



Suwannee River Sturgeon

once fished out, learning about this animal has affected it comeback, a mini restoration of a species.





An Introduction to the Herpetology of Florida


"the striking noise that frogs make"


the fern distribution in and around Ocala -- once Ocala island -- is a hint of what Florida was like in Pliocene and Miocene times and a clue to the distribution of endemic species today -- those unique to Florida and no other place (usually a condition of island isolation after adaptive radiation).

Florida Vignettes

Spider hunt,

remnants of old Florida

Tails of Lizards

Cross section of the Floridan aquifer


Skink and the wren


Alligator Country


all the early impressions are morbid


"all animals to some degree affect the landscape they live in..."


gators create landscape,

keystone species in the dry season by water collection holes


A subjective Key to the fishes


Fish beneath the waves


Hound Magic


hunting in the Ocala scrub

Scrub jay The Scrub Jay in Florida is a definitive resident of these isolated dry forests.

Carnivorous Plants

Pitcher plant bog Pitcher plant bog.

A level of revulsion" is reserved for flesh eating plants



The Cold-blooded Fraternity


"a proper reptile"


Living with an Alligator


a ten to twelve foot long eleven year old gator




A Moss Forest


Spanish Moss is the most influential plant in the southeast



In Praise of Snakes

Snakes are silent all the time,


Rachel Carson used a dubious biological image that evokes a responsive relation as to a depiction of the biotic world.




The Landscape of Florida

flat woods

Flat woods and various diverse forests are described as to the soil and water conditions they are adapted to



Armadillo Dilemma

In the 1930s there were none

Now in 1980s more than any other creature save squirrels




Water Hyacinths

An introduced (South American) species that are increasing due to over-fertilization of the rivers, lakes and streams






The peninsula cooter and two other types of turtles have nests with three chambers for no apparent reason considering their predators who are raccoons and crows.

The behavior may be a relict activity that reflects the once prevalent --but now absent-- predators from Paleolithic or Pliocene times.



The Gulf Island Cottonmouths

A snake guts bioassay reveals many things (reading the entrails) about a habitat and the creatures' habits



A Dubious Future


"dedicated to restoring the Atlantic green turtle in American waters."

Green Turtle

"The world is responsible for reptiles."

"The inadvertent saving of scraps will never keep off the ruin of the earth. The only way is to name the real obligation clearly, to say without hedging that no price can be set for the things that are to be preserved."

"the harder jobs,"

like justifying a future for snakes , which have no legs, hear no music, and badly clutter subdivisions."

what is required "is an aggressive stewardship of relics, of samples of original order, of objects and organization of cosmic craft."


"This work will take staunch people, and the reptile cam be the shibboleth by which they pass."

p. 234.

"The snake that confronts the imagined man is a moving thing to see.

The woods grow dark and fade off into distant times."

p. 235.

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Eden Changes



"more than almost anywhere else in America, it was nature that drew people to Florida to start with."

p. 236.

"And there are things to be thankful for. The return of Manatees to limestone springs, for instance. Thirty years ago it was next to impossible to see a manatee in the primordial wintertime habitat of the species – the big springs of the central peninsula. Manatees are good to eat, and they were hunted out of springs long ago."

p. 236-37.

"Having visible wild alligators in the landscape is a thing to be thankful for."

"But most people probably would figure beavers in Florida are worth a few drowned planted pines."

"the spread of the long legged wading birds."

p. 237.

Tarpon Springs George Inness, Tarpon Springs, in 1892.

Loss of springs is indicative of decline, ignorance and a need for recovery (restore our wilds)

"Florida is underlain by soluble limestone."

"And nowhere in the Florida landscape is natural beauty distilled to its essence as it is in the big springs-- wherever their natural biologic organization has been spared."

p. 239.


"a change in the heart of the people."

"the loss is being overtaken by the growth of a system of ecological ethics, by a new public consciousness and conscience."


"...the farsighted kinds of people who saved the white birds in 1913 and three decades later generated the Everglades National Park, have multiplied and are influencing the whole political climate for conservation and preservation."


"The rise of this new stewardship ...brings the promise of better times for man and nature in Florida."

p. 244.

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Florida as it once was and will, or can, never be again.

Population change in the fifty years of Carr's writings in Florida alone rendered remnant landscapes adrift in a sea change.

Year Population

Florida's vegetation

In, on and about Wewa pond, on the Carr family homestead, a sense of that place is palpable and grows to encompass Florida, the Caribbean, Africa and eventually then the entire world.


From his sense of the spirit of the place a deeper "sense of place" emerges from an ongoing interactively animated codependency among plants, animals, bacteria and fungi that we can see among the creatures of an area.

Creatures who take to their respective ranges in different ways that bind their senses to the ever changing vicissitudes of weather, climate and most of all to the behavior of all the combined habits of kindred life in the adjoining habitat.

Defining nature

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Archie Carr, A Naturalist in Florida, Themes, Contents, Summaries

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Last Updated on 8/19/05 .