Bears seen trashing around in Poinciana.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says bears usually come onto someone’s property if they believe there’s food available — including in trash cans.

POINCIANA – In a growing community like Poinciana, the sheriff’s office may have to deal with a variety of matters, from car accidents to home break-ins.
What happens less often, said Donna Wood, is what occurred on Sunday, Oct. 7, when Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies got two calls about something rather unique: black bear sightings.
There was at least one black bear, described as being around 250 pounds, seen rummaging through garbage cans in areas that included Redwing Court, Starling Court, Spoonbill Court, and Sheldrake Road in the southwestern part of Poinciana.
The community of 10 villages is divided between Polk and Osceola counties. In the southwest part, there’s wilderness areas nearby.
Wood, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said there’s actually a lot more rural sections to this large county, hospitable to wildlife, than many city residents assume. Continue reading

Upcoming Wildflower Symposium hopes to educate about Florida’s native plants.

Lake County’s upcoming Florida Wildflower Symposium aims to put a spotlight on the region’s natural beauty. (Photo by Steve Schwartz.)

TAVARES – When people move from other states to Central Florida, they often want their garden to look just like the one they had up north.
What they don’t always understand, Lisa Roberts said, is that the soil in Central Florida really has its own unique ways and methods – and not all plants that grow so beautifully up north can adapt here.
“That’s very true,” she said. “People come from different areas and they want to grow what they’re used to.”
When their plants simply won’t survive down here, they want to know what they’re doing wrong – and that’s where Roberts comes in.
“We try to introduce them to the Florida species that are really well adapted to the Florida landscapes,” she said.
Roberts is the executive director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation, which is hosting the upcoming inaugural Wings and Wildflowers Festival, as part of the foundation’s Florida Wildflower Symposium. The festival will be held Sept. 28-30, with numerous events scheduled for the first two days at various sites throughout Lake County.
The symposium is also going to feature educational workshops on subjects that include Nature & Wildflower Photography, Start Gardening with Wildflowers, Bee Walks, Attracting Butterflies with Native Plants and the Florida Wildflower Travelogue.
And what more ideal environment to do it, Roberts said, than in picturesque Lake County.
“In Lake County, it’s really easy,” she said. “There are a lot of great venues to visit. There is a lot of interest within Lake County and Central Florida about adding native plants to landscapes, because they are adapted to our environment, adapted to our pests, and they are more sustainable. A lot of people are putting native plants in their landscapes now.”
As Lake County’s inaugural birding and wildflower celebration, the weekend-long festival will offer more than 100 scheduled events and activities, many in the great outdoors — everything from wildlife photography hikes and guided kayak trips to bird watching expeditions and expert speakers.
James Currie, host of the adventure birding television show Nikon’s Birding Adventures on NBC Sports, will be the festival’s keynote speaker.
“I think the objective of Lake County’s celebration is to show off its natural lands, which feature just an amazing variety of birds and wildflowers,” Robert said. “The two go together. We’ll be taking people out to natural areas and showing them how to start a mini-menu with seeds, and why it’s important to support our native bees. We have hundreds of species of bees in Florida, and they are struggling to survive, and they are responsible for pollinating 30 percent of our crop. So if you like strawberries, thank a wildflower.”
As part of the festival, a special Wildflower Wingding barbeque will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 6-8 p.m. at Hickory Point Park at 27341 State Road 19 in Tavares. The barbeque will feature live entertainment provided by the bluegrass band Molly and Her Music Makers. Tickets are $15, with proceeds benefiting wildflower research, planting and education.
“It’s a great facility,” Roberts said of Hickory Point Park. “It has indoor screen pavilions where we will be conducting classes throughout the day, and at the end of the day we’ll have our barbeque and everyone is invited to attend, have a great time and enjoy some music.”
If they also come to appreciate the region’s landscape, so much the better, Roberts added.
“The symposium will provide exciting events for wildflower-lovers and help educate participants on the importance of preserving wildflowers at the same time,” she said. “We’ll have a workshop on putting together a rain barrel, and we’ll be talking about sustainability. We have to stop using so much water, and we will be introducing ways to save water in their landscaping.”
Many of the festival’s events are free. FWF members get discounts on admission to Symposium activities and some of the Wings and Wildflowers Festival events. To learn more, log on to www.lakecountyfl.Com/GoWild, or call the Florida Wildflower Foundation at 407-353-6164 or visit www.flawildflowers.org.

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Tornado in Winter Haven blamed for one death and plenty of damage.

Tropical Storm Debby has proven to be a major soaker for Central Florida. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

WINTER HAVEN – Tropical Storm Debby has brought an entire weekend full of soaking rains to Central Florida, downpurs that are continuing today.
But for one Polk County city, the storm got deadly when it caused a tornado to strike a dangerous path.
In response to the weather, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office set up a mobile command station in the Gold’s Gym parking lot at Cypress Gardens Boulevard and Cypress Gardens Road in Winter Haven, said Carrie Eleazor, public information officer for the sheriff’s office. The mobile command station was set up throughout the evening on Sunday, to assist Polk County Emergency Management with reports of a tornado in the area.
“We were pretty much responding from the mobile command,” Eleazor said on Monday morning. “Now we’re pretty much back to normal.” Continue reading

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