The Tourist Tree - Gumbo Limbo
Jean Craighead George
There is a book by Jean Craighead George, called “The Missing ‘Gator of Gumbo Limbo.” Mrs. George writes wonderful stories that address social issues like, arranged marriages and homeless people. She adds a touch of culture of the area and addresses the ecology found between Mother Earth and humans. This book is set in the culture of Southern Florida. She has also written a series about Julie and the Wolves which address the culture and ecology of the Alaskan tundra. Mrs. George was raised in a family of naturalist which can be experienced in each of her books. Be sure and check out other books by Jean Craighead George.
Social Issues - The Homeless
If you happen to be visiting Florida in the near future this children’s book can prepare you and your children for the social issue of the homeless, some of the ecology of the Everglades and the culture of Southern Florida. The book successfully helps each of the homeless people introduced in it find a safe place, but sadly this does not always happen in real life. There are homeless people, we do not need to be afraid of them, but we do need to have a healthy respect for how they choose to live.
Just as the homeless need to be respected the alligator also must be respected for they can be very dangerous. They are fascinating and a novelty to many, but cannot be petted unless in the right conditions such as; a zoo.
The book will also introduce you to new definitions to words like hammock. Most people think of a rope like bed strung between two trees. Well, the new definition still has trees, the ecological definition is; a stand of trees, that form an ecological island. If you look off in the distance and see mound or clump of hardwood trees that is a hammock. This definition for the word hammock is usually found in the Southern part of the United States.
The Tourist Tree
It will also introduce you to the Gumbo Limbo (Bursera Simaruba) tree. It is called by many names the most popular one being “The Tourist Tree.” Why the tourist tree you ask? It has a shiny, showy dark red bark, which peels like a tourist after too much sun. When it is all through peeling it leaves a smooth, sinuous gray under bark, kind of like the smooth brown tan after the peel of a sunburn.
Gumbo Limbo Tree
The Gumbo Limbo tree is very useful tree ecologically. It likes to grow with the mangrove trees in the deep white sands or limestone and will grow really quickly in rich fertile soil. The sun is one of its loves. It has massive trunks with interesting, stout – horizontal branches that like to stay near the ground. It is the prettiest of the salt tolerant trees, one of the most tolerant trees to hurricane winds, and is drought and neglect resistant. A rounded top tree with much character for its branches does not reach to the sky, but reaches across to the other trees horizontally
This tree produces a resin that was once used for turpentine and varnish, although new products have been invented to use instead of these, which helps in the preservation of this tree. It was once the only wood used to make the horses for the carousels. The wood is lightweight, soft and easily carved. The resin is still used for glue, incense and teas. It is used in the treatment of gout, and has anti-inflammatory qualities.
If the reasons given are not enough to keep it around, it is loved by the butterflies and several species of birds such as; mashed tityra, bright-rumped Attila, black-faced grosbeak, Baltimore orioles and dusty-capped fly catcher.
Gumbo Limbo Ecological Nature Park
There is also a Gumbo Limbo organization located in Boca Raton, Florida. It is an ecological nature park. The book is set in the Everglades for alligator are not found naturally in the Gumbo Limbo in Boca Raton. You can find a copy of the book by Jean Craighead George in the bookstore. This park has nature walks, Gumbo Limbo trees, mangroves, butterflies in the Butterfly Garden, inside Marine Aquariums with many different sea creatures, and a research center for sea turtles, sharks, rays and sea grasses.
There were three sea turtles in different stages of recovery weighing from 40 pounds to several hundred pounds. Each of their stories were posted, along with their names (which the person who finds them get to give them), and how they are doing in their recovery.
Be sure and check out all the Gumbo Limbo things to see in Southern Florida.