The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has announced the permanent protection of 363 acres at the headwaters of the Myakka River in Myakka City. Seven creeks converge into one river, the Myakka, at the newly named Myakka Headwaters Preserve. The clear-flowing water allows the creek bottoms to support submerged aquatic vegetation, which is unable to grow in sunlight-blocked blackwaters found elsewhere on the Myakka. The preserve is next to the 2,300-acre Flatford Swamp, the river’s largest forested wetland.
This part of the Myakka River—and the greater coastal Florida ecosystem—contains numerous diverse habitats. The floodplain forests contain tupelo and red maple, uncommon on the lower Myakka, and support threatened orchids and airplants, including the Myakka River airplant (tillandsia simulata). The marshland forms a seasonally dry meadow with sandy ridges supporting lowland loosestrife, a Florida-endangered flower found in 12 counties and no place else in the world.
The preserve also contains more than a mile of uplands and oak hammocks buffering both sides of Flatford Swamp and the Myakka River. Longleaf pine flatwoods are home to gopher tortoises, a keystone species, and rare plants such as Florida Alicia. Oak hammocks host additional orchids, airplants and ferns.
The Myakka River Land Fund of Manatee Community Foundation awarded $1.3 million for the permanent protection of the Myakka Headwaters Preserve. The established purpose of this fund is to purchase or restore environmentally significant lands within the Manatee County Myakka River Watershed.