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More on bats, plus summer and the Chinese evergreen

July 13, 2012
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Last week I wrote about bats and tried to tie the ugly little critters into the local environment, as the good guys. Not too successful at that first attempt, but as time went by it turns out I just was not talking to the right people.

We do have an active bat population, but not living in nice middle class bat houses, because they prefer the dark waterfront location of Cape Coral bridges.

The city claims 400 miles of waterways and that means a lot of bridges are available for bat housing.

I learned about bats living under our bridges from "Harry" at the Cape Coral Environmental Resources Division. I belong to the Cape Coral Canalwatch program and have been collecting water samples from our freshwater lake for several years. He has been working there for several years at the front desk as volunteers bring in their monthly samples from local canals and lakes.

I mentioned to him about trying to find out about some local bat activity and he said that around here they really seem to prefer hanging out under the cool, dark bridges. This also provides them with a great waterfront view.

In fact, we talked about the county and Matlacha having serious meetings about the fact that replacing the Matlacha Bridge would destroy the local bat habitat. That is another story, for another time. The bridge construction has been moving along just fine so I will assume that a satisfactory solution must have been reached.

I do not remember hearing of any problems in Cape Coral concerning a few hundred extra bats taking up residence and causing any environmental disruptions.

I would love to go around town looking under bridges to see some bat colonies, however I am not really equipped for that project. My 16-year-old buddy, grandson, Jeffrey decided that looking for bats, even in daylight, was not something he was going to be a part of.

I do know of two bridges along our canal system that have not had bats, because we used to boat under these bridges and there were never any bats. There is one bridge that Harry mentioned that has a bat population, but there are no homes in the vicinity and access needs to be by boating. I do not want to start a tourist trend of boating through a bat habitat.

I did call a Tampa company and talked to a gentleman about bats and he said they do mostly bat exclusions for private homes or businesses. Remember it is illegal to just kill bats whenever you want to. The company number is 1-888-758-2287.

They are always willing to talk to anyone about bats, even down south.

You are now on your own concerning local bats. Just be aware they are out there and they really are helpful little critters, and mean no harm to humans.

HOT. That is what it is, and WET. Summer is here and as it happens in Southwest Florida, you never know when it will be a good thing or a bad thing. It is like growing a garden, there will be good surprises and bad surprises. No matter what you plan on from last years harvest, this year can be better or worse. The best news, it will always change soon so you just need to have a plan A and a plan B.

I lose lots of things around this house but I always have my last two years calendars handy to check the past rainfalls, to compare with the current year.

Last year during the first 10 days of July we had 1.9 inches of rainfall. This year 4.08 inches of rainfall. With the large amount of rain we are receiving it has been very muggy and that makes the heat much worse. We are still better than a lot of the states north of us who have suffered extreme heat his year. Hopefully we will not have a drought situation later this summer.

OK, now for something to do with actually gardening - new plant to me and two other gardeners I know. A beautiful tropical, variegated leaf plant called the Chinese evergreen. This variegated version has deep green splashed leaves, trimmed in rose.

This plant is billed as a houseplant requiring indirect sunlight, watering every week and fertilizing every month. It will grow about 2 feet high and spread about 18 inches wide. Let the soil dry before watering well and draining well.

The Chinese evergreen a species of foliage plants in the family Araceae, is native to tropical swamps and rain forests of Eastern Asia. The most common plants are sold with their drooping, oval shaped leaves of only green and cream shades of leaves. The thick stems may be propagated by cutting the tallest to shape plant.

It is a great plant to clean the inside air of pollutants. It tolerates temperatures of 50 to 90 degrees. Remove lower leaves as they discolor and also the small bulb-like white flowers, as they die, and before producing unwanted berries.

This plant is toxic to dogs, cats and horses. You may have to request it at a plant source as they are not available all the time. It is a striking plant inside or outside on the Lania, as I am growing mine.

Keep cool and dry until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Cape Coral Garden Club.



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