In spite of rain over Ahhochee Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, six dedicated volunteers came out for a morning of removing invasive plants at Florida Audubon’s beautiful Hernando County sanctuary. Our work focused on removing berries from Coral Ardisia, (Ardisia crenata) one important step in the Sanctuary’s habitat restoration project. Once again our Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Brooksville Ridge Volunteers coordinated by Annemarie Hammond out of the Chinsegut Nature Center was a huge help in recruiting volunteers. Volunteers are essential workers at Ahhochee Hill -we appreciate their dedication!
In 2010, Audubon of Florida’s Ahhochee Hill Wildlife Sanctuary applied for and was awarded a five year Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) grant through USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services. The Sanctuary is comprised in large part by mixed hardwoods with remnant Sandhill and mature longleaf pines interspersed. Very little sunlight reaches the forest floor, and native ground cover has been replaced in some areas by invasive cogon grass and Coral Ardisia.
The primary objective of the grant is to enhance habitat quality for native wildlife species, including Northern Bobwhite Quail, white-tailed deer and Wild Turkey through longleaf pine restoration. This project will provide an excellent example of how properly managed private lands can benefit wildlife. As habitat improves, wildlife viewing should also improve. Reimbursement funds are available for roughly 70% of the cost of herbicides, establishing fire breaks, purchasing and planting longleaf pines and introducing fire to the property to encourage native species recovery. The funds provided by this TogetherGreen grant will be used to purchase herbicides necessary to treat the Coral Ardisia, helping us meet the 30% not covered by the WHIP grant.
The fire breaks were completed this summer and work is now concentrated on removal of the invasive plants. Removal of the invasives prior to tree thinning and planting is essential to control further spread of exotic plants. New plants can produce fruit in as little as two years. The seeds germinate at a rate of 84-98% within 40 days. Eradication is labor intensive as the berries must be removed by hand prior to applying herbicides, as the berries are unaffected by spraying. Every plant has the potential for 25-40 berries to ripen, fall and regenerate. On Saturday, October 29 with a concentrated effort, nearly 50 pounds (two garbage bags full) of little red berries were removed by the TogetherGreen volunteers. That will keep thousands of more plants from spreading throughout our landscape!
Thank you to our volunteers and for more information, please join us on our new Ahhochee Hill Wildlife Sanctuary Facebook Page!