Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seashells on the Alabama Gulf Coast

There are a wide variety of shells that can be found on the shores of Alabama. Beachgoers enjoy strolling along the beautiful water on the white sand in search of shells. Even the most avid of shell hunters enjoy searching the pristine beaches for treasures to bring home. Here ares some of the Alabama Gulf Coast's most common seashells:


Ark shells come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are usually white or beige in color. Some of them have deep brown striped shells. They have a long, straight-hinged line that almost gives the appearance of teeth. Ark shells are commonly found in the area.

Augers Auger Shell

Augers are also referred to as auger snails. The shells of these predatory sea snails are spiral in shape with ridges throughout. The shells actually have a slight resemblance to a rock drill bit. While alive, they live in the sand and prey on all kinds of marine worms.

Bonnets Bonnet Shell

Bonnet shells are the remains of a medium sized sea snail. The bonnet shell got that name because it looks similar to the Scottish Tam O’Shanter, which is a traditional hat with a tartan pattern. It is usually white with colored patches on it.

Nutmegs Nutmeg Shell

Most nutmeg shells are less than an inch in size. They vary in size, shape and color. Most have a white background with darker colored markings on the shell.

Conch Conch Shell

Conch shells are the shells of medium to large sea snails. They have a really high spiral and a siphonal canal. Conch shells are often used as decorative items because of the beautiful pink to red color on the inside of the shell. The shells can also be made into musical instruments and they are used this way in the islands of the Caribbean.


Coquinas are the remnants of small clams that are edible. These beautiful shells usually wash onto the beach at low tide. They are only about 20cm in size. They can be very colorful and beautiful.

Jewel Boxes Jewel Box Shell

The jewel box shell is roughly an inch and a half wide. It has a thick, off white shell. The inside of the shell is glossy and has a pinkish hue to it. The ribs have frilly spines that protrude from them. The shell is surprisingly heavy for its size.

Moon Shells Moon Shell

Moon shells are very common snail shells found on the Gulf Coast. They often have a white base color with tannish brown or gray swirls on it. Moon shells can be up to three inches in diameter.


The giant Eastern murex is also common to this area. This is a predatory sea snail that is between medium and large in size. They are often collected on our beaches at 3 to 4" in length. These shells have really interesting shapes, ridges and spines, and have a whitish color with brown accents.

Lettered Olive Lettered Olive Seashell

The lettered olive shell is the remains of a large sea snail with a predatory nature. The shell is cylindrical and very smooth and glossy. The shells are usually tan or gray and have a brown zigzag pattern on them. They can be as large as 2 ½ inches

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pelican Place at Craft Farms

Pelican Place at Craft Farms is one of the newer shopping centers on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Located only four miles from the beach on Highway 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway), the shopping center has a diverse and wide array of specialty shops, big box chain store stores, dining establishments and a movie theater. This is a good place to spend a rainy afternoon during the summer or a cold day during the winter-- or if you like to shop, it's just a good place to spend some quality time. I can say this because I hate to shop and there's enough here to entertain me while my wife does her shopping. We're both happy.

The center has a modern design that makes parking convenient to the business that you plan to shop first. Each time that we have been to Pelican Place, there wasn't a lot of "parking lot walking" involved (that's one reason why many malls are suffering today).

Unless I'm hungry, my first stop is Books-A-Million. Most people who vacation here are familiar with this book store chain. For those who aren't, it has books, books, and more books. I'm not sure if has a million of them-- I sure wouldn't want to count them! Even though I buy a discount card every year that saves me 10% off anything in the store, I usually just buy a cup of coffee at their Joe Muggs Café and pick a few books to read while I'm enjoying the coffee (which is very good). The markup on coffee is probably more than it is on the average book or magazine so they probably don't care.

Another favorite stop at Pelican Place at Craft Farms is Sweetie Pies. Even though the bakery is new to this center, it has been in business for about twenty years. It was formerly in a street location on Highway 59 in Foley. No doubt it moved for more exposure, as more competition moved in closer to where most of the people are (the beach). They specialize in pies (whole or by the slice), but you can get just about any dessert that you can imagine here. You can take it out of dine in. The shop is very clean and attractive and the seating is comfortable.

Other places to get a quick snack or a full meal are Kitt's Kafe, Island Oasis, Stone Cold Creamery, Elli Bistro, Papa's Pizza, Mikato Japanese Steakhouse, Coffee Heads, Subway, and Longhorn Steak House. If you enjoy a cigar after a meal, there is even a cigar bar in the center called The Dunes.

One of the most popular spots in this center is the Cobb Pinnacle 14 Theaters. This Cobb location has stadium high-back rockers and an extensive food menu.

Also at Pelican Place at Craft Farms is a GameStop store where you can rent games to take back to the beach. If you want to take a computer back home with you or need an accessory for your Apple, there is a Mac N More Apple Specialist store.

You can also pick up computer games and supplies or buy a dvd at the big Target. Target is also a good place to pick up beach supplies and snacks for the beach or your lodging.

Another large store at this center is Bed, Bath, & Beyond. This store is a favorite of locals and those who own vacation property here.

A favorite specialty shop of University of Alabama fans is Bama Fever. The owner of this business is sure to love a season like the last one, where the Alabama football team won the National Championship.

If you enjoy surfing or skating you will probably want to visit Inner Light Surf and Skate. There, you can do just about everything related to those two sporting activities. If you had rather just lie on the beach or fish, shop for sunglasses at Sun Rays Sunglass Center.
Other shops in the center include Beach House Boutique, Maurices, Paisley Jane's, Hibbett Sports, Little Monkey Toes, and Hooch's Mama.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Palm Trees on the Alabama Gulf Coast

You will find many palm tree species on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Although some are native, others have been brought into the area. These are the palm trees that you might see here.

Canary Island Date Palm

The Canary Island date palm is an ornamental palm tree. Its massive size gives this tree a grandiose appearance. It can grow up to sixty feet tall. The incredibly thick trunk has a diamond pattern on it. The crown of the Canary Island date palm boasts more than fifty leaves. The leaves are between a foot and a foot and a half long. As the name implies, this palm tree was imported from the Canary Islands.

Canary date palms are at the right in the photo.

Gulf Shores Palm Trees

Windmill Palm

The windmill palm usually grows to be about twenty-five feet tall; however, specimens have been found as tall as forty feet. The fronds are between two and three feet in length with dark green leaflets. Windmill Palms can survive in the cold all the way down to five degrees.

Windmill palms are to the left in the photo.

Sago Palm

The Sago Palm is technically not a palm at all but a cycad. They are actually prehistoric trees. Fossils of this specimen have been dug up all over the world. They can grow to ten to twelve feet high with an eight to twelve feet spread; however, it can take up to fifty years for the tree to reach this size. The leaves are about four feet long and dark green in color. The sago palm prefers sandy soil that drains well.

Sago palms are in the foreground of the photo above.

Washingtonian Palm (Mexican Fan Palm)

The Washingtonian palm grow very tall, sometimes exceeding one hundred and twenty feet, though most that you will see will be no taller than forty feet. The trunk is thinner than most other varieties of fan palms. The Washingtonian palm’s fronds are a deep shade of green. They require a fair amount of maintenance and need to be trimmed annually. This palm tree is indigenous to the southern half of Baja California and northern parts of Mexico.

Pindo Palm

The pindo palm is one of the smaller palm trees as it only grows to about twenty feet tall. The bright green fronds have a feather-like appearance. The spring flowers eventually grow into orange fruits that resemble dates. The fruits are edible either fresh or as a jelly. They are native to South America where the fruit’s flesh is smashed and mixed with alcohol for a flavorful drink!

Sabal Palmetto (Cabbage Palm)

The sabal palmetto palm usually grows to be fifty to sixty feet tall and the trunk can be as much as two feet around. The fronds are between five and six feet long and each has approximately fifty leaflets on it. The pale yellow flowers develop into black fruits. The fruit is a good food source for birds and other wildlife. The sabal palmetto does well in salty conditions near the water.

Saw Palmetto

The saw palmetto is native to the Alabama Gulf Coast. It is a small fan palm that only grows between three and six feet tall. They usually grow in clumps and prefer the sandy soil of coastal areas or pine forests. The center of the frond has sharp spines that can easily tear your skin open. This shaft supports about twenty leaflets.

Needle Palm

The needle palm is a small fan palm that grows up to six feet tall. It doesn’t have a trunk; it has a crown from which the leaves grow. The crown expands slowly to allow more leaves to grow. The needle palm has a bush-like appearance. This palm is a native palm tree species. It is very cold hardy and has a high level of drought resistance