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Posts tagged ‘plants’

Tree Tuesday: Fairy’s Staircase

Walking the Malachite Trail in the SWA portion of the most wonderfully pristine Everglades watershed of the Grassy Waters Preserve, an old tree displayed new life with a whimsical fungi arrangement — a fairy staircase!

fairy tree

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Yellow on Red: Wild Canaries & a Powderfuff

Nature does not hurry
Yet everything is accomplished. —Lao Tzu

The Wild canary (Serinus Canaria) — Canary, Common Canary, or Atlantic Canary — is native to the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira. These wild birds are mostly yellow-green, with brownish streaking on the back — similar to a sparrow in size and markings. It belongs to the finch family.

The bird is named after the Canary Islands, derived from the Latin Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of Dogs.” They were so named by the Romans, in honor of the islands’ native inhabitants breeding large dogs. So the word “Canary,” derived from the Latin Canis, means “dog.” The Spanish conquered the islands in the late 1400s, and returned to Europe with the yellow songbirds. From there, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, and later the U.S. bred their own versions of these colorful little birds, primarily for their sweet song. Germany became the center for breeding canaries, and for training them to sing. They were so widely bred, that by the beginning of the 18th century, 29 distinct varieties were already in existence. Today, the species is common in captivity, with myriad color variations — and breeders striving for more color, song, and physical diversity. But taking a peek at the original Wild canary, it’s difficult to find similarities to the bright yellow counterparts you may encounter today. Personally, I find them that much lovelier.

During mining’s heyday, canaries were taken deep into coal mines to detect gases; being sensitive, they would soon die if gases were present. On that note, I give you The Police’s Canary in a Coal-Mine, a great ditty that’s been in my head for days, understandably….

This golden beauty was twittering about the lush and fairy-like Butterfly World’s Jewels of the Sky Aviary, the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States. He finally settling on a Red Powderpuff plant (Calliandra haematocephala). Red Powderpuffs are subtropical shrubs/trees that are easy to grow (and not just in Florida, but they do grow LARGE here), and even better… They’re attractive to bees and butterflies — and obviously birds!

May your weekend be as golden and bright as this lovely little songbird!

Wild Canary Enjoying a Red Powderpuff Plant

Wild Canary Enjoying a Red Powderpuff Plant

Wild Canary Enjoying a Red Powderpuff Plant

Wild Canary Enjoying a Red Powderpuff Plant

Wild Canary Enjoying a Red Powderpuff Plant

Wild Canary Enjoying a Red Powderpuff Plant

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”

Riots of Yellow & Gold in a Florida Forest

Hiking in Florida affords an onslaught of lush landscape, but in the dry winter months, all shades of  brown rule. As spring dawns, the greens return and the colors alight. During our recent venture to Broward County’s Fern Forest, a magnificent 247-acre conservation site and wildlife refuge characterized as “the last remaining stronghold of ferns in southeastern Florida,” we witnessed a barrage of yellows and oranges (the colors of the day, as my mind flashed to an episode of Sesame Street). This beautiful and diverse natural area represents the last remnant of the historical Cypress Creek floodway — which today, remains a significant refuge for wildlife in a highly urbanized region, encompassing ten plant communities, including tropical hardwood hammock, open prairie, and cypress-maple swamp.

After leaving the shaded canopy of the Prairie Overlook Trail — the shade of which was already much appreciated with our rapidly rising temperatures — a riot of bright yellow Prickly-pear cactus blooms greeted us in the open prairie. And upon our departure from the Cypress Creek Trail (a wonderful boardwalk), we spied a rare yellow anole (aka yellow-phased green anole); unfortunately, anoles with this unique color mutation don’t usually live long in the wild, as the green coloring offers them valuable camouflage for hunting prey and hiding from predators.

A Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly (Marpesia petreus), a common sight in Florida, alights near the hardwood hammock…

For More Information:

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

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