It’s a Wild Life at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
This is part two in a series of three blogs on the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores. Read part one.
The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a popular place for people to connect with the coast - but that’s not its only purpose. True to its name (which is French for “safe harbor”), the refuge was founded to provide a sanctuary for various types of flora and fauna, many of which are on the threatened or endangered species list.
Designated as one of the 10 Natural Wonders of Alabama, the refuge offers visitors the chance to encounter native plants and animals surviving - and thriving - in their natural habitat. From the safety of four terrific trails, you’ll find many forms of flora and fauna you’ve never seen before - and are unlikely to see anywhere else.
Animals aren’t the only wild residents that plant their roots here. Almost 7,000 acres of diverse coastal wilderness provide plenty of places for plant life, and the refuge has some fantastic flora. Whether you enjoy colorful blooms, delicate foliage, or towering trees, you’ll find some of everything along the trails.
As you explore the lush maritime forest, wander through the wetlands, and stroll near the dune swales, interpretive signs, and handy guidebooks will point out the unique plants that live in each landscape.
If trees are your thing, you’re really in for a tree-t. You’ll find dozens of unique tree species across the refuge, including live oaks, southern magnolias, longleaf pines, bald cypress, Atlantic white cedar, and many others. In areas of maritime forest, they all come together under a dense canopy draped in thick Spanish moss.
Blooms and Berries
Flowering plants and shrubs provide a splash of color as well as seasonal snacks for birds, squirrels, and other refuge wildlife. Some of the most common species include blueberries, wild olive, muscadine, saw palmetto, Yaupon, Conradina, and Persimmon.
Between the maritime forests and sandy shores lies a living ecosystem all its own. As ocean winds and salty spray blow in from the coast, they create a twisted sculpture of hardy shrubs and low-lying trees that provides shelter for wildlife and protects inland areas. You may spot sand pine, sand live oak, myrtle-leaved oak, and Florida rosemary, among others.
As you approach the frontal dunes, keep your eyes peeled for swaying stalks of sea oats. These native coastal plants keep the dunes intact and provide a tasty meal for the Alabama Beach Mouse.