Second Bananas
By Phil Poland
    While South Florida is known for its large and colorful tree snails, restrictions on the collecting of Liguus and Orthalicus leave us with buying or trading for existing stock as our only option for obtaining specimens.

    Some of us prefer the hunt, whether we collect or not - that’s me. Fortunately there are a lot of snails in Florida that can be legally pursued, including some very pretty arboreal ones closely related to the "forbidden fruit" (Liguus and Orthalicus) of the family Orthalicidae.

    These are snails of the genera Bulimulus and Drymaeus, which have been assigned to a sibling family, Bulimulidae, by R. Tucker Abbott in his Compendium of Landshells. While other authors have used different taxonomic arrangements, this recent and popular reference is followed here.

    Four species of this family have been found in Florida: Bulimulus guadalupensis (Bruguière, 1789), Drymaeus dominicus (Reeve, 1850), Drymaeus dormani (W. G. Binney, 1857) and Drymaeus multilineatus (Say, 1825).

(Click on the images to see a full sized version)

Bulimulus guadalupensis    Bulimulus guadalupensis is a recent invader from the Antilles. First reported in Hialeah, near Miami, it seems to be spreading rapidly. It does well in an urban environment, very much like another landsnail, the ubiquitous Polygyra cereolus (Mühlfeld, 1816). It’s a tropical species, however, and its eventual range in Florida will probably be limited to the areas where winter freezes are rare.

    I was visiting a fellow snailer in Miami Beach one summer, after a rain, when I stumbled across this species for the first time. His walls and shrubs were thick with them and he hadn’t noticed.

    In Miami, I found it in front of Madonna’s house – no kidding, in Coconut Grove, and near Matheson Hammock.

    Most recently, I found it in Goodland, on Florida’s southwest coast, on buildings and shrubs.

Drymaeus dominicus    Drymaeus dominicus is another tropical species found in southern Florida. It has an extremely thin and fragile shell. Aestivating snails generally cannot be directly removed from trees without breaking. If the small bit of bark to which it’s attached can be removed, the combination can be soaked in water for a short time and the animal will become active.

    I’ve found this species on trees throughout the Everglades, the Keys, and on the southeastern coast of Florida.

 Drymaeus dormani    Drymaeus dormani is another arboreal species, but is limited in range to the central and northeastern parts of the state.

    I first found this species while canoeing on the Silver River near Ocala. The fairly large and almost white shell stood out clearly against the wet trunk of a cypress tree. I’ve also found it on hardwoods and cypress along the Withlacoochee and Hillsborough Rivers. Last month, during a rain, I found them laying their little round white eggs in the leaf mould at the bases of trees near a central Florida river.

    Assistant Editor Harry Lee’s November 1977 Shell-O-Gram article, entitled On Tree Snails, discussed this species' positive service to citrus growers by controlling saprophytic sooty mold in their groves.

Drymaeus multilineatus    Drymaeus multilineatus is a tropical species with a range that almost perfectly matches that of D. dominicus. Unlike D. dominicus., it prefers shrubs to trees, and fares better in developed areas.

    My first memory of Drymaeus was of a colony of D. multilineatus in vines on a trellis in a friend’s yard. It was about 1956 in North Miami Beach, and we were about eight. I traded a pile of comic books for the rights to transplant the lot of them to the shrubs in my own yard. I had Liguus in my yard too.

    I stayed at the Seashell Motel in Naples last summer and found this species on the walks, walls and shrubs there. It was my first record of this species on the west coast.

    These four species aren’t always easy to find. Rain makes a huge difference. After a downpour, what had been snailless terrain can become alive with them. The color images accompanying this story were all shot on short notice, based on reports of heavy rain in Miami.