Environmentalists constantly charge that development has deprived plants and animals of their natural habitat. While I would normally agree, a few thing have happened over the past few weeks that make me wonder whether this is true, or if plants and animals are adapting just fine to cityscapes.
Last week, I was walking along Main Street in downtown Sarasota. It was early evening, perhaps 7 p.m., and still light. As I passed the building housing the offices of First Baptist Church, I glanced down at the sidewalk. Lying on the concrete, at the junction where the church building butted up against the locksmith shop, was a length of rubber tubing. I took a few more steps before it registered. “What on earth was that?” I wondered aloud. I backed up and bent down for a second look. Just a two-foot length of black rubber hose, sticking out of a hole in the mortar between the buildings. Then it moved. Slowly it backed away from me, sliding back into the circular hole a few inches. Thinking I was imagining things, I inched closer, cautiously. Again the snake retreated, this time until only its head was visible at the entrance of the hole. I blinked and it was gone. I have no idea what type of snake it was; I was so astounded to see it in the midst of an urban environment that I never thought to identify it.
Later that same night, I was leaving my favorite coffee shop following a performance by guitarist/vocalist Michael Miller, when his wife, Laura, told me about the Night Blooming Cereus, a cactus flower that only opens after dark, and only blooms for a single night each year. This being the long-awaited night, I drove to the Towles Court neighborhood in search of the elusive flower. As Laura had promised, it was a spectacular display – giant white flowers larger than a person’s hand, draped all over the thin, scraggly cactus.
During my two and a half years of living in downtown Sarasota I have seen a family of raccoons in the Rosemary cemetery, giant blue herons trying to steal fish from the pond in the courtyard of my building, and a red-shouldered hawk perched in the low branches of a palm tree in my parking lot. For the past week I have been gorging on mangoes falling from a heavy-laden tree at my back door, and wild banana trees in a vacant lot next door regularly produce fat bunches of sweet fruit.
It certainly doesn’t seem that development is negatively impacting the flora and fauna in Sarasota; if anything, they seem to be thriving. All of which makes me smile…..except perhaps for the snake.