Greg Wittstock, Ed Beaulieu, and Brian Helfrich, are the Pond Stars. The team travels the United States creating working ecosystems that add beauty and bring wildlife into backyards and public areas all across America. On this week’s episode, Welcome to the Jungle, the team has the challenge of building two complicated projects in St. Augustine, Florida. While the Florida ecosystem is a pond builder’s dream, the guys are still racing against the clock.
Ed, the team’s scientist, notes that there’s at least 140 different species of reptiles and amphibians, as well as more native tree species than in any other state in the continental United States. Florida also offers swamps, wetlands, and even the ocean to draw inspiration from. The guys consider, admire, and have meet and greets with some of the native species of plants and animals, which are the stars of the finished water features. Features including the flourishing flora and fauna that Florida has to offer, including–but certainly not limited to:
At Larry and Amber Payne’s house, the Pond Stars decide to work with all native plants on the build, but the most impressive component of the construction is a 2,000-pound piece of Cypress driftwood, which will be used as a bench. Cypress trees can live to be over 500 years old. In fact, the oldest one in Florida was documented to be over 3,000 years old. Ed notes that the beautiful piece of driftwood could literally be from a different millennium.
Cypress trees are often found partially submerged in swamplands, ponds, and brackish water. The water-resistant quality of their wood makes the driftwood perfect for an outdoor water application.
Green anoles are a common lizard in Florida and play a very important role in keeping the insect population at bay. Found just about everywhere in the state, green anoles need greenery, shade, and a moist environment. They can be found in trees, shrubs, and on walls or fences. Ed feels that finding anoles on the Galligan’s project means it’s a healthy habitat. Saying, “I know that adding a water feature’s gonna make it just that much better!” Of course, pausing to play with the brazen little lizard is the perfect break from work.
Green tree frog
The frogs around the ponds also make for great insect control. One of the most common frogs in Florida is the green tree frog which is found across the state and prefers waterside vegetation, but also frequently shows up in towns. These nocturnal frogs not only help with insect elimination, but have a pleasant cowbell-like call that they often sing in a chorus, with frogs calling at different pitches. If you build a water feature in Florida, they are sure to come and add to the night sounds.
While the guys don’t actually find any snakes, they are thrilled to discover that Chris, the new guy, is terrified of them. Greg buys a rubber snake and places it strategically on the build site where Chris can discover it. They all get a good laugh out of the joke, but most snakes are great to have around as well. Snakes control the rodent population and even the keep the frog population from getting out of control. Some snakes, like Florida’s federally endangered Eastern Indigo snake, are not only harmless and non-aggressive, but are immune to rattlesnake venom and prey on the venomous snakes.
In all habitats, having a water feature is a sure way to attract native wildlife, especially birds. Water is one of the basic requirements of wildlife and something we often take for granted. We can turn on our tap and get the water we need. Animals listen for it and search it out. Ed points out that just the sound of the trickling water is going to draw in a variety of wildlife to enjoy. And after the two water features are finished, there is no doubt that the humans are going to enjoy them as well.
Tune in to this week’s episode of Pond Stars: Welcome to the Jungle Tuesday September 23 at 10P on Nat Geo WILD!