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Posts from the ‘Florida History / Sightseeing’ Category

Passionate for Passiflora

As mentioned in the post A Butterfly’s Kingdom, flowering Passion Flower vines (passiflora), are beautiful beyond compare. Otherworldly and almost alien-like, really. Spanish explorers discovered the plant in 1569, in Peru. Believing the flowers symbolized Christ’s passion, the conquistadors took it to indicate his approval for their continued “exploration.”

Butterfly World’s conservation efforts include the establishment of The Passiflora Society International, which was established at the site to encourage research on passion flowers, the source of food for many butterflies. Luckily, they grow easily in our area. And I’ll be replanting one soon — my last climbing passion flower vine never took, curiously. I’d like to blame it on bad energy at the time (not bad placement or other planting faults) and try, try again to attract more butterflies to my little garden.

I knew passiflora tea was good for you, but I just learned HOW good — there are numerous health benefits associated with the plant. It’s been used for more than two centuries by Native Americans as a sedative and relaxant, and traditional medicine practitioners widely acknowledge its help in alleviating pain and lowering blood pressure, among other things — per WebMD even, it can be used for seizures, withdrawal symptoms, asthma, fibromyalgia, burns, swelling, muscle spasms, and more…. It was even approved as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid in the U.S., only taken off the market in the ’70s when its effectiveness hadn’t been proven… Just like so many herbal remedies. I think I’ll be buying some passiflora tea.

Yet another example of the many gentle and beautiful ways in which Nature provides.

Passiflora “Lavender Lady”

Passiflora “Lavender Lady”

Passiflora “Inspiration”

A Butterfly’s Kingdom

In light of recent events, smiles were in order… So we hiked, we walked our natural areas, and we visited the butterflies!! I’m a nut for butterflies — I often find myself plowing through beastly banana spider webs, or managing the swamp, to chase butterflies on our hikes. More than once I’ve nearly tripped over large, scaly, and silent objects at the water’s edge — quite unlike a butterfly — in my efforts to photograph these lovelies….

Butterfly World, located here in South Florida, opened in 1988. It’s the largest butterfly park in the world, and the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. At any given time, more than 3000 live butterflies are fluttering at the facility (and usually MORE), representing 50 different species (150 species over the course of an entire year). This is all thanks to Robert Boender, who raised butterflies and their food plants from his Florida home, post-retirement. In 1984, he was supplying farmed butterflies to zoos and universities with his own company. He met Clive Farrell — founder and owner of the London Butterfly House — in 1985, during a visit to England. Wanting to create a similar facility in Florida, Boender and Ferrell joined forces and began plans to create a combination public attraction / research facility and butterfly farm — and Butterfly World was born.

Visitors enter the spectacular Paradise Adventure Aviary, with fountains, ponds, lush vegetation, and of course thousands of butterflies — representing five continents. It’s a glorious shock to the human system, to be suddenly surrounded by thousands of fluttering brilliant colors. The Hanging Garden & Butterfly Emerging Area is next, where cases filled with pupa and emerging butterflies are displayed. Finally, the Tropical Rain Forest Aviary recreates a rain forest — complete with waterfall, thousands of tropical plants, and free-flying birds and butterflies.

Butterfly World also includes the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States — the Jewels of the Sky Aviary — as well as a Lorikeet Encounter, and an aviculture research center. At the butterfly laboratory, visitors can view — through a glass enclosure — where butterflies are raised, observing the different stages of formation including eggs, caterpillar, and pupa.

At the Museum/Insectarium, exhibits of mounted specimens of beetles, butterflies, moths, and other insects are displayed. The Bug Zoo features live insects, including spiders, walking sticks, and mantids. Not particularly my favorite part of the facility, having been raised on the Equator, on a tropical island where insects grew to gargantuan proportions — and there was little barrier between you and them.

Other features include Grace Gardens, offering examples of the world’s flowering tropical plants. The Wings of the World Secret Garden presents one of the largest collections of flowering Passion Flower vines (passiflora) in the world — beautiful beyond compare. Butterfly World’s conservation efforts include the establishment of The Passiflora Society International, which was established at the site to encourage research on passion flowers, the source of food for many butterflies. A North American “Bring Back the Butterflies” campaign is also active here, with thousands of people across the country receiving free literature on butterfly gardening for their region. Check it out! Butterfly World also helped establish the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory at the University of Florida — instrumental in saving the endangered Schaus Swallowtail, and reintroducing the species to South Florida.

Many pesticides kill butterflies (and bees, and…), so it’s important to be safe with their use — or, use ladybugs in their stead! Sadly, butterflies came up in the news recently with companies like genetically-modified foods giant Monsanto. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Crops have been tied to the decrease in Monarch populations by killing the very plants that the butterflies rely on for habitat and food — milkweed. These plants are being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides on Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the Monarch butterfly population in Central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010. Obviously there’s a far bigger picture here, which many are aware — land destruction, farmers’ livelihoods, and our own health — but when the news was released that these companies and their crops were now ravaging the butterfly populations (for years, now)…. Honestly.

But thanks to the education and conservation campaigns of facilities like Butterfly World, perhaps there may be some sort of balance reached between the destruction caused by these companies, and a return to the natural order.

Piano Key Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly (Specifically, err…)

Clipper Butterfly

Madiera Butterfly

White Morpho Butterfly

Still trying to figure this one out…

…And on to the birds!

Preening Peacocks

One of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens today is a not-for-profit facility with more than 3000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants and trees. The lush Wray Botanical Collection features 21 of the largest trees of their species in Florida (and in many cases, the United States) — “Champion Trees” — as well as a unique hammock of 200-year-old live oak trees, and several specialized gardens. Within Flamingo Gardens’ 60 acres also resides an Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, aviary,  and Bird of Prey Center, which are home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state — offering permanently injured and non-releasable animals special care and a home. (Be sure to read their stories!)

Free-roaming peacocks and iguanas also stroll the grounds (as do TNR’d kitties — yay!), although we missed the iguanas on our initial visit. But to see the peacocks in all their glory, roosting in the centuries-old live oaks… Beyond lovely. The colors of the birds, joined with the ornate oaks and tropical foliage, was ethereal.  A fairy world. Another thanks to the Wrays, and to all those who continue to protect and preserve the land and creatures of the Everglades….

For more on Flamingo Gardens and its mission to “depict and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of South Florida and the Everglades,” visit their website!

Contact Information:

3750 S. Flamingo Rd.
Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955

For More Information:

Preening Peacock, Flamingo Gardens, Davie, Florida

Tropical Flora & Champion Trees at Flamingo Gardens

One of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens today is a not-for-profit facility with more than 3000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants and trees. Within its 60 acres also resides an Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary and aviary, which is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state.

Sausage Tree

Within the gardens, over 60 commercial and ornamental types of citrus remain from the original groves, including oranges, limes, and grapefruits. The Tropical Plant House features orchids, calatheas, and other plants; specialized gardens include the Croton Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Hummingbird Garden, the Bromeliad Garden, the Flowering Tree Walk, the Amaryllis Garden, the Reflection Pool and Garden, and the Fragrance Garden. Some unusual flora can be found within the collection as well — such as the sausage trees, with their dangling fruit and a dynamite tree, with pods that explode and send seeds flying.

The Wray Botanical Collection at Flamingo Gardens also includes 21 of the largest trees of their species in Florida — “Champion Trees” — and a unique hammock of 200-year-old live oak trees. In most cases, these trees are also the largest in the continental United States, due to the location’s ideal tropical growing conditions for their species — star fruit, wampi, pink trumpet…. While walking through these beautiful giants, it’s mind-boggling and heartbreaking to think that without the efforts of the Wrays — who simply didn’t allow these trees to be logged like so many others, and fought for the land’s protection — this jungle growth, some of the last in South Florida, now represents the oldest in the state. A narrated tram tour (which we didn’t take) leads visitors through some of this last natural South Florida growth, located in the back 50 acres of Flamingo Gardens. But you can certainly stroll through the centuries-old live oaks and enjoy the towering Champion Trees on your own….

Champion Tree

For more information on Flamingo Gardens, its Wildlife Sanctuary, or its history, check out my last post or their website!

From the website:

Flamingo Garden’s mission is to depict and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of South Florida and the Everglades in our botanical gardens and wildlife sanctuary:

* by providing a repository for endangered plant and wildlife species and a living library of specific taxa available for research and education.
* by inspiring an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of tropical and subtropical plants from around the world that can be grown in our area.
* by guiding the public in environmentally responsible and aesthetic horticultural practices.
* by encouraging environmental awareness and Everglades preservation to visiting tourists, residents, and school children.

Contact Information:

3750 S. Flamingo Rd.
Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955

Hours & Pricing:

$9.00 child (ages 4-11) / $15.00 seniors, students and military / $18.00 adult
(Check online for coupons!)

Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Closed Monday (June 1 – Oct. 31)
Open Year-Round

For More Information:

Flamingo Gardens: Botanical Gardens & Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary

Truth be told, I was hesitant to visit South Florida’s Flamingo Gardens. I hadn’t visited a zoo-like environment in nearly 34 years, when a piddling 7-year-old-me had to be dragged in hysterics from the Honolulu City Zoo. Since then, I haven’t entered another — and the only sanctuaries I visit are carefully researched. So when friends suggested Flamingo Gardens after being pleasantly surprised by the facility, I researched the place in my typically type-A spastic nature: Was the native wildlife truly injured/non-releasable, blah blah blah? But it wasn’t just me with doubts: On entirely separate occasions, acquaintances expressed concerns about the location — fears that it was a tourist trap for visiting snowbirds, and consequently hosting less-than-stellar conditions for animals. In hindsight, I’m wondering why others had the same worries… Was it poor marketing? Would a tagline help? Was the signage scaring people off? Or were we all simply misinformed, over-reactive idiots?

Whatever the reason, it’s a dayum shame. My/our crazy conservationist fears were completely unfounded.

South Florida Flora

One of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens today is a not-for-profit facility with more than 3000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants and trees. Within its 60 acres also resides an Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary and aviary, which is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state. The Wray Botanical Collection at Flamingo Gardens includes 21 of the largest trees of their species — “Champion Trees” — and a unique hammock of 200-year-old live oak trees. While walking through these beautiful giants, it’s mind-boggling and heartbreaking to think that without the efforts of the Wrays — who simply didn’t allow these trees to be logged like so many others, and fought for the land’s protection — this jungle growth, some of the last in South Florida, now represents the oldest in the state. A narrated tram tour (which we didn’t take) leads visitors through some of this last natural South Florida growth, located in the back 50 acres of Flamingo Gardens. More on these most amazing gardens and champion trees…

South Florida Fauna

Within the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, aviary, and Bird of Prey Center, permanently injured and non-releasable wildlife are given special care and a home. Read about their stories — so many people, nearly all in fact, just strolled right by the detailed plaques that explained how and why these animals came to be at the sanctuary. Infuriating. Eight-three species of Florida native birds and animals, including alligators, panthers, bobcats, otters, eagles, free-roaming peacocks, and of course the namesake flamingos reside at the sanctuary. A half-acre free-flight aviary is home to more than 250 birds representing 45 species — in the last 20 years, these birds have produced over 2000 offspring which have been released into the wild. Five native Florida ecosystems are exhibited at the aviary: coastal prairie, mangrove swamp, cypress forest, sub-tropical hardwood hammock, and sawgrass prairie. A daily Wildlife Encounter show offers live presentations of Florida native wildlife from sanctuary, including birds of prey, mammals, and reptiles, elucidating their relationships to humans and the environment.

History

Barred Owl

Arriving to Florida in 1925, Floyd and Jane Wray were quickly intrigued with the horticultural possibilities of their new subtropical home. They purchased 320 acres of land on Long Key in the Everglades, and incorporated Flamingo Groves on January 2, 1927. Orange trees were planted — and by 1939 2,000 acres were covered in citrus groves. But earlier, in 1928, the Wrays envisioned a botanical showcase of subtropical flora, and began a project that was to become one of the first botanical gardens and tourist attractions in South Florida. The gardens received foreign plants and seeds from the federal government for test planting in a subtropical growing climate — rare tropical fruit and flowering trees were displayed so that visitors could experience South Florida’s beauty and diversity.

In 1969, Jane Wray — herself a musician, teacher, and poet who loved the gardens — established the Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation in honor of her late husband, to preserve the property and protect the history of the Everglades. The name changed to Flamingo Gardens, the botanical gardens were expanded, and the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary was added in 1990. The Bird of Prey Center and the free-flight aviary were built in the early 1990s. The 1933 Wrays’  home — now the Historic Wray Home — is registered as a historic site and has been restored as a museum providing a glimpse of life in the 1930s. Unfortunately (or fortunately — it provides an excuse for a return trip!), we missed this while we rambled amid the gardens and animals.

Visit!

Long story, short…. GO! Visit this amazing place, walk among the centuries-old trees, say hello to the rescued animals, and learn of their stories. We were able to visit on a comparatively quiet weekday, and it was amazing to chat with the animals’ overseers. It’s heartbreaking — but at least these animals’ stories ended well. With as many sanctuaries and animal rescues as I’ve visited, one can only wonder how de-clawing exotic cats is still permitted when it causes extreme pain and lameness; or the horrific “legal” state minimum enclosure requirements for bears, big cats, and other wild animals (envision a tiny jail cell); or why people would even *want* to shoot endangered, majestic birds of prey. It’s appalling. So I’m only sorry that I — as well as others, obviously — remained in the dark as long as I did regarding this facility’s nature and mission. If you visit, be sure to check their calendar for upcoming special events (for instance, they’re having an Earth Day event, including a benefit flea market on April 21…. FUN!). And give the parrots some loving attention on the way out; several — the Cockatoo and the African Grey (at least, at that moment) were especially anxious for one-one-one time, having obviously been accustomed to it in their pasts.

From the website:

Flamingo Garden’s mission is to depict and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of South Florida and the Everglades in our botanical gardens and wildlife sanctuary:

* by providing a repository for endangered plant and wildlife species and a living library of specific taxa available for research and education.
* by inspiring an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of tropical and subtropical plants from around the world that can be grown in our area.
* by guiding the public in environmentally responsible and aesthetic horticultural practices.
* by encouraging environmental awareness and Everglades preservation to visiting tourists, residents, and school children.

Contact Information:

3750 S. Flamingo Rd.
Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955

Hours & Pricing:

$9.00 child (ages 4-11) / $15.00 seniors, students and military / $18.00 adult
(Check online for coupons!)

Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Closed Monday (June 1 – Oct. 31)
Open Year-Round

For More Information:

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Lake Worth’s Street Painting Festival: Cloudy Skies & Brilliant Streets

This year, the 18th annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival was hosted on a cloudy weekend — but despite the constant threat of rain (and downpours to the north), Lake Worth’s vibrantly-colored streets were spared, save for a brief chilly rain on Saturday. Each February, over 400 artists from as far away as California and New York — even the United Kingdom — transform the streets into original art and masterpiece reproductions with just chalk and the pavement as their canvas. This year, more than 200 street paintings were created by 600 featured and amateur artists, covering more area than any other festival of its kind in the U.S.

As always, the crowds on Sunday were fierce, to view the fully emerged art and colorful concrete, as well as the street performers, musical entertainment, Food Courts, and Lake Worth’s shopping — fabulous consignment and antique shops line the streets. The artists are always lovely and open, despite the frantic schedule to complete their artwork during the two-day festival; there’s a friendly and communal atmosphere among them, as they participate and visibly enjoy the process and performance of street painting.

The Lake Worth festival began in 1994 by a small group of local residents, who wanted to revitalize their city — it is now touted as the country’s largest annual Street Painting Festival, attracting well over 100,000 visitors each year. Street painting however, can be traced to 16th-century Italy. Itinerant Renaissance artists, hoping to advertize their works and attract critical attention and crowds, used chalk and the streets as their makeshift canvas.

For More Information:

Feathers, Fur & St. Francis at the Ancient Spanish Monastery

During our recent visit to the most sublime historic site, the Ancient Spanish Monastery — also known as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, or the Spanish Monastery — we encountered an unexpected amount of wildlife in this tiny sanctuary, tucked away in North Miami Beach’s expanse of concrete. A significant cultural and religious monument, the Ancient Spanish Monastery remains one of the most important monasteries in North America, and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more than a tourist attraction or a premier wedding venue; this historic site includes peaceful gardens, a setting to meditate and worship, and an opportunity to enjoy Romanesque architecture from the twelfth century — offering you the chance to feel the medieval stones beneath your hands, truly a unique experience in south Florida, let alone the United States. Amidst the 870-year-old architecture (1133-1144) and winding gardens, we startled a hawk at the fountain; being in the middle of our annual South Florida winter drought, animals vie for water wherever they may find it. And the kitties! It seems as though — at least, to a casual observer — that the monastery is doing a superb job with TNR (trap-neuter-release) to control feline overpopulation, especially in (but by no means limited to) city centers. Most everyone knows how useful a few kitties can be to control rodent populations…. So kudos! And another thanks to publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who bought and shipped the abandoned Cloisters and monastery from Spain stone-by-stone (despite the fact that it was intended for his private California estate of San Simeon). Without the whims and extravagances of these fabulously wealthy magnates, we wouldn’t now have this serene and lovely spot to enjoy.

St. Francis watches over the critters in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami

A resident kitty relaxes and tries to hide in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

A resident kitty in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

For More Information:

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