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Posts tagged ‘protection’

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:

World Water Day 2012

On March 22nd, 1993 the world celebrated its first World Water Day, established by the United Nations as a day for global consciousness of our most precious resource. Despite the fact that we live on a water-covered planet, only 1% of the world’s water is available for human use. With exploding population growth, access to a healthy and sustainable diet is becoming more critical — as is the need to reduce rampant food and water waste. Each year, World Water Day celebrations host different themes; this year’s focus is on “Water and Food Security.” Nearly 900 million people across the planet lack access to safe water, and 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation.

I saw firsthand the effects of a lack of access to this treasured resource (which is consequently tied to a poor diet), growing up where I did. We take the luxury of running water for granted in this, and most, countries. And now, living in such proximity to the Everglades (in what sadly once was the ‘glades), one quickly learns the destructive force of humankind on an entire ecosystem — a wholly unique environment on this planet — when natural waterways are re-diverted to suit development needs. I’m still on the lookout for local Water Day events…

I’ve always been surrounded by water, but humans have done their best to harm it, and in effect, the entire plant, animal, and human populations it governs, supports, and feeds. This March 22nd, help celebrate and remember that Earth has always been, and always will be our Mother — and we’re all here together, sharing her resources.

Visit National Geographic‘s informative blog, WaterAid, or the official United Nations Water Day site and its diverse materials (which provides promotional brochures, educational guides and more)….

Egret in the Everglades, Florida

Everglades, Florida

Great Blue Heron, Everglades, Florida

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park: Southeast Florida’s Haven of Subtropical Coastal Habitat

Located on a barrier island adjacent to Lake Worth Cove — on the north end of Singer Island in North Palm Beach — John D. MacArthur Beach State Park preserves some of the finest examples of subtropical coastal habitat that once covered southeast Florida. The various natural communities afford a haven for rare and endangered indigenous tropical and coastal plant species: the park encompasses 325 acres (of uplands and submerged lands), including a mangrove-lined estuary,  coastal and tropical hammock, hardwood forests, beach, and shallow reef. Lake Worth Cove itself is crossed by a 1,600-foot scenic boardwalk.


Popular activities include swimming, picnicking, and surfing along the nearly two miles of pristine beach, lined with sand dunes and native vegetation; scuba diving, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking are also enjoyed by visitors. Hikers can investigate tropical habitats along two nature trails (the Butterfly Trail is no longer present): the Satinleaf Trail winds through a mixed maritime and tropical hammock along the Lake Worth Lagoon, and the Dune Hammock Trail leads visitors across the estuary bridge (boardwalk) and along the west side of the dune. Each time we’ve visited, we’ve traveled both trails, but always end up on the Dune Hammock Trail — and although it’s a casual hike, it’s an absolutely lovely view of natural Florida, that leads down to the beach and the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Birdwatchers can spot osprey, peregrine falcons, wood storks, herons, egrets, brown pelicans, terns, sandpipers, and gulls. Fishing is permitted from the non-swimming areas of the beach, as well as by canoe and kayak in the lagoon.

The William T. Kirby Nature Center further explains the park’s natural communities and its role as a biological treasure to the region, offering Speaker Series and live animal exhibits. Children’s programs, guided snorkeling tours, and “Under Moonlight” concerts are among other special activities hosted by the park. MacArthur also offers guided nightly tours of its sea turtle nests — the area is a top nesting site for the endangered loggerhead, and the green and rare leatherback turtles, who nest from early May through late August. Having attended one of these tours — and speaking from one who was raised on a South Pacific island, accustomed to seeing sea turtles — it’s truly an amazing experience. Just bring your bug spray! Other park accommodations include a small amphitheater and picnic pavilions, both which are available for rental.


The park was named for billionaire John D. MacArthur, who once owned a large portion of Palm Beach County (including this land). Donating the land in the 1970s in an effort to preserve it for future generations, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park officially opened in 1989. Munyon Island, named for Dr. James Munyon and itself hosting a fascinating history, is accessible only by canoe or kayak. It allegedly supported one of the largest wading bird rookeries in South Florida. During the early 1900s, Munyon built the famous resort hotel on the island, “The Hygeia,” named for the Greek goddess of health and visited by wealthy (mainly northern) visitors. The hotel burned down in 1915, and the island has since remained uninhabited. But human occupation in these lands dates to 900 A.D., when Native Americans settled in the area. Evidence of their presence comes from recovered artifacts including discarded bones, shells, and pottery that were found in their refuse piles. In fact, the next Speaker Series hosted on March 10 highlights the prehistory of the park — “The Prehistory of MacArthur Beach State Park” — definitely something to investigate.

Contact Information:

10900 Rte. A1A, North Palm Beach, FL, 33408
East on PGA Blvd, across US1 to A1A. Stay South on A1A for two miles
Phone: (561) 624-6950

Hours & Pricing:

William T. Kirby Nature Center: Daily, 9 – 5
Park: Daily, 8 AM – Sundown
$5/vehicle ($4 Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle)

For More Information:

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge: A Winter’s Walk in South Florida

A very chilly and windy day at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge provided an absolutely LOVELY opportunity for the native Floridians who anxiously wait year-round for such times to explore, without the constant threat of Jurassic-sized mosquitoes. With the dark skies, the birds were either hunting or doing their best to stay warm — several hawks made themselves known, but the great-horned owls were impossible to spot, despite their persistent and seemingly close cries. And high in the beautifully colored cypress trees — the moss lit on fire with the sun’s long rays — a group of pileated woodpeckers rambunctiously searched for grub.

For More Information:

Cypress Swamp Colors in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Cypress Swamp in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Cypress Swamp Colors in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Blue Heron in the Trees, Arthur R. Marshall

Blue Heron in the Trees, Arthur R. Marshall

Winter Tree and Vines, Arthur R. Marshall

Red-shouldered Hawk, Arthur R. Marshall

Red-shouldered Hawk, Arthur R. Marshall

Pileated Woodpecker, Arthur R. Marshall

Arthur’s Butterflies

A brief hike within Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — along a secluded section of cypress swamp bordering a sliver of meadow — yielded both heavy blossoms and lots of…BUTTERFLIES! While the human male was busy exploring, I was exceptionally careful not to trip over any large, scaly objects as I thrashed about the bushes at the water’s edge, chasing butterflies. I had nearly crossed paths with one particularly large and silent scaly object — quite unlike a butterfly — in my efforts to photograph these lovelies…. Last picture proof positive to always be aware of one’s surroundings when hiking near water in Florida, and to be fully respectful and knowledgeable of alligators’ behavior. This certainly isn’t the first close encounter with these interesting creatures in our years of Florida hiking, nor will it be the last.

My mother would *not* be happy….

For More Information:

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius)

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)? Julia?, Arthur R. Marshall

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

White Peacock Butterfly (Anartia jatrophae), Arthur R. Marshall

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)? Julia?, Arthur R. Marshall

White Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus albescens) (?), Arthur R. Marshall

Hullllo, Mr. Alligator. You’re not a butterfly.

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