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Soil or dirt?

December 8, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

We all know that our state tree is the sable palm even though it is botanically a grass. We share this state tree with the state of South Carolina. We also have the zebra longwing as our state butterfly, the coreopsis flowers scattered about our roadways are our state wildflower, the fragrant orange blossom is our state flower, the Florida panther is our state animal, the manatee is our state marine mammal and the dolphin our saltwater mammal. We tread lightly around our state reptile, the alligator, and wonder about our state bird, the Northern mockingbird, that can mimic at least 30 other birds. But did you know, we have a state soil to be included in our state symbols?

Yes indeed, Myakka fine sand is the state soil, which will lead to a discussion about the difference between dirt and soil. Dirt is not soil, they are not synonymous.

Pat Megoifal, a curator at the Smithsonian, says, "Dirt is displaced soil." Soil is the compilation of minerals, air, water, animals and other living matter that accumulate in layers and become compacted over time. Integrated communities of living and inanimate things making up the ground under our feet. Once dug up and let loose, they are no more soil but particles of their former self. A dictionary may tell you dirt is loose or packed soil or sand, and soil is firm land. You can wear dirt and walk on soil. Soil has as its parts, microorganisms, decaying organic matter, a living environment for worms and insects that aerate it. Basically, dirt is dead soil, it needs to be revitalized, plumped up, amended.

Soils have taken thousands of years to form; we need to realize soils can be easily damaged by poor management.

Florida has the largest total acreage of Aquods (wet, sandy soils with an organic layered subsoil) on flatwood landforms in the nation. Myakka is a native soil of Florida and nowhere else in the nation does it exist. More than 1 1/2 million acres of Myakka (Native Ameriacan word for "Big Waters") soil exists in Florida. To be technically, taxonomic classification wise, Myakka soil is sandy, siliceous, hyperthermic Aeric Haplaquods.

Agriculture in Florida is of great importance, our major industry. We are number one in oranges, grapefruits, fresh tomatoes, watermelons, foliage (flowers and ferns), sugar cane, tropical fish and aquatic plants. We also produce beef, dairy cattle, timber, fruits and nuts, poultry, pigs, tobacco, vegetables and more. We rank eighth in states of overall sales. Our mild winters and well-managed soils are keys to our soil productivity.

Early European settlers called our landform, flatwoods. Organic matter accumulates on the soil surface, helping the flatwoods support all forms of life. Animal wastes and plant remains contribute compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to this soil. Over time, this mixture accumulates and darken the soil's surface layer. A grey and light grey subsurface develops from the leaching process by water percolation.

A soil surface then, has different colors, textures, layers and other morphological, physical and chemical properties unique to any given soil. Nearly 450 different kinds of soils, soil series, are recognized in Florida. The Myakka soil series occurs throughout the peninsula part of Florida. We have topsoil, subsurface, subsoil, then substratum layers of soil. Myakka fine sands profile is a 6-inch surface layer of friable gray fine sand; then 22 inches of a subsurface light gray, fine sand layer; then a 6-inch subsoil of dark, reddish brown fine sand organic stained layer, with a brown and yellowish brown fine sand substratum layer.

It's thermic counterpart (cooler), the Leon series, only occurs in the north and northeastern part of Florida, the Panhandle. At one time it was considered as the make-up in the whole state; but when the Soil Taxonomy, official United States soil classification system published its findings, the Leon series was only considered to be found in Florida's thermic zone north of a line between St. Augustine and Cedar Key. In 1970, profiles occurring below this line were renamed the Myakka series.

Myakka was named for the city in Manatee County, Florida.

On May 22, 1989, Gov. Bob Martinez signed bill number 524 into law making Myakka fine sand Florida's official state soil.

Soil is the foundation of almost all the important facets of life as we know in Florida, worthy of protection. Myakka fine soil is the symbol needed for increasing public awareness of Florida's soils and caring for it.

I realize I have used the spelling of grey/gray different ways in my article. Research tells me that gray is the American way and grey is the UK way. Since genealogy wise, I am over 50 percent English, I am taking a writer's license to cop out. But I am thoroughly American since the 1600s.

My family tree is not the same as hugging a real tree. But hug a real one and thank it for your blessings of fresh, clean air. I too, do accept hugs.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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