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A Botanical Garden With A Twist - A Wildlife Sanctuary

Updated on July 10, 2013
Huge Tree In Flamingo Gardens
Huge Tree In Flamingo Gardens | Source

It's Summer - The Season For Travel And Fun

Finally, summer is here. Friday June 21st marked the first day of summer. For solar buffs, it is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year. That point where the sun is highest in the sky, inundating us with increased solar radiation and warmth. Those of us in Southern Florida consider ourselves lucky. We seem to have summer all year round, although, at this time, we have to contend with the potential threat of storms and hurricanes. The hurricane season runs from June through November each year. Despite this threat, however, Floridians joins the rest of the country in welcoming summer, nature’s best antidote for cabin fever.

Road Trips, Plane Rides, And Cruises

As we begin to put those summer vacation plans in motion. Many of us will be jetting off to distant places on other continents. Some will take cruises to parts unknown. Others will embark on road trips to various attractions, throughout the continental USA.

Statistics from the US Travel Association shows that for year 2012, Americans took 1.6 billion person trips, and spent an estimated $596.9 billion on domestic and international travel for leisure alone. With an improving domestic economy, we can safely assume that this year, Americans will be taking to the roads, sea and skies in even larger numbers than they did last year. Below are some of the main activities that describe the American domestic travel experience:

Visiting Relatives

Shopping

Visiting Friends

Dining

Theme Parks

National or State Parks

Botanical Gardens

Beaches

Huge Tree In Flamingo Gardens
Huge Tree In Flamingo Gardens | Source

Flamingo Gardens & Everglade Wildlife Sanctuary

Plant and nature lovers who may be planning a trip to the South Florida area this summer will find Flamingo Gardens –Botanical Collection & Everglade Wildlife Sanctuary, a more that worthy destination. A day trip to this garden could prove to be a pleasant diversion from the beach, for a day. We visited this garden recently, and thoroughly enjoyed its lush tropical flora, and other unique offerings.

The Flamingo Garden, established in 1927, is the oldest botanical garden in South Florida. It was founded by Floyd and Jane Wray originally as an orange grove.

The 60 acre not for profit botanical garden is home to over 3000 rare and exotic tropical plants and native trees. The garden boasts 21 Champion Trees, as designated by the Florida Forest Service. A champion tree is one recognized by the National Forestry Organization. This organization, in 1940, established a program, to recognize the largest tree of its specie in the USA. In addition to its 21 champion trees, this wonderful, garden also has the distinction of hosting Florida’s largest champion tree, a non-native Cluster Fig, with a circumference of 54 feet 1inch, height 102 feet, and a crown span of 95 feet.

Peacock At Flamingo Gardens
Peacock At Flamingo Gardens | Source

Our Delightful Visit To This Florida Garden

We arrived at the garden in the early afternoon, just in time to board the tram, for a narrated 30 minute tour through the more remote 42 acres of the property.

First, we rode through the dense tropical rainforest, featuring large evergreen trees, and a dense undergrowth of smaller trees and shrubs. On observation, the area appears largely undisturbed. Our narrator confirmed that the thick jungle growth has remained as it existed over 100 years ago.

Perhaps, the highlight of the garden is the natural hammock of large 200 year old Live Oaks, draped with epiphytes, laden with bromeliads, and wild orchid species.

This unique hammock of trees, sits atop the highest elevation in Broward County, FL where the garden is located. Our tour also took us through the wetlands area featuring mangroves, cypress and other water loving plants. We were eagerly hoping to see Elvis III, and Pricilla, the resident Alligators, in the Alligator Lagoon, but we were disappointed. I guess they had better things to do below the water surface, than to grace us with their presence.

A short distance away was the fruit grove that featured common tropical fruits such as mango, orange, lime, grapefruit, persimmon and pomegranate.

Once our tram tour was over we were now free to embark on our own walking tour, throughout the less remote areas of the garden. We decided to visit the three specialized gardens, below, and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

  • Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden
  • Croton Garden
  • Bromeliad Garden

Flamingos At The Garden
Flamingos At The Garden | Source
Turtle At The Flamingo Garden
Turtle At The Flamingo Garden | Source
A Wood Stork At The Flamingo Gardens
A Wood Stork At The Flamingo Gardens | Source

A Sanctuary And Animal Friendly Environment

We found Flamingo Gardens to be special space, not only because of its beautiful collection of tropical and rare plants, but also for its collection of animals as well.

In 1990 the garden created the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, a home to over 90 species of Florida native birds and other animals. These animals have been rescued and nursed back to health, but unfortunately, cannot be released back into the wild. These animals are no longer capable of surviving in the wild.

We saw two bald eagles, a wide selection of owls, falcons and hawks, in the birds of prey center. We also enjoyed a special presentation on Owls given by a member of the garden staff.

Later we braved walking through the garden’s Everglade Free Flight Aviary, a 25000 square foot facility hosting over 250 birds representing 45 species, native to the state of Florida. We were thrilled to learn that this was the largest collection of wading birds in America. There were birds everywhere. Some were walking, others were flying around, others, were perched on branches above our heads. It was a noisy dynamic environment, where one would be well advised not to look up. Thankfully, our visit was incident free, although, I am not sure if that’s such a good thing, since, in some cultures, being pooped on by birds is considered good luck! As an occasional Lottery buyer, maybe, that’s just the kind of luck I need to win the jackpot.

The Flamingo Pond was definitely another highlight of our visit. Just watching these large pink birds moving around with such grace, in their natural habitat, was fascinating.

I had never seen real flamingos before. So this was quite a thrill. We also visited the Big Pond and Turtle Walk, where we observed many species of water bird, including, Storks, Swans, Geese, and Ibises. Other pond inhabitant, like turtles were also on display in this area.

A Unique Collection Of Plants And Animals - A Florida Gem

In summary, our visit to the Flamingo Garden – Botanical Collection & Wildlife Sanctuary was a great experience. A unique garden that features both plants and animals. Its collection of Champion trees. The hammock of 200 year old Live Oaks, are both state and national treasures worth seeing.

The Wildlife Sanctuary that rehabilitates injured animals and provides them a permanent home also affords visitors the opportunity to observe these animals up close. Surely closer, that one could ever approach them in the wild.

Finally, this garden, like all the others we have visited, provides a wonderful space to commune with nature. A quiet place for inspiration and reflection.

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