Sunday, March 1, 2020

Travel Story--South Florida Flowers, and More

south Florida

It was February and South Florida was green, while the northern half of North America was white (or brown).
northern Colorado

South Florida was also yellow, red and purple...
                                                                                      and that was just the leaves

red and yellow coleus

purple leaves

I took a tour with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, from Naples and Fort Myers on the Gulf (west) Coast to Miami, Delray Beach, and Key Largo on the Atlantic. Coming from days where the high was 40 with humidity under 40%, it was quite a change to have 80 degree temperatures and 75% humidity.

South Florida has the occasional frost, perhaps a serious one every 20 years. In between, they grow many tropical plants and, with abundant rain (60" a year) and warm temperatures, those plants can--
and do--grow very large. We cold-climate people reveled in sunshine, leaves and flowers, bees and butterflies, in February.

beautiful bougainvillea (Bougainvillea sp., four o'clock family, Nyctaginaceae)
Clock vine flower, Thunbergia mysorensis, Asian vine
Clock vine flower, Thunbergia mysorensis, Asian vine
(acanthus family, Acanthaceae)
Thunbergia grandiflora, skyvine
sky vine, Thunbergia grandiflora, from India
(acanthus family, Acanthaceae)
One of the delights of the warmth of south Florida was seeing butterflies, outdoor motion after winter's stillness. This one is perched on a bright orange orchid. (This photo is from a butterfly house, but there were plenty of wild butterflies too.)

butterfly on orchid

I did notice some things other than plants. 

A lizard:
lizard, south Florida

The water. This is Sundowners Restaurant on Key Largo, looking into the Gulf.

                      Key Largo, Florida

And this:
concrete with seashells
concrete with seashells
This is a section of pavement in Naples. Those little white things are sea shells that were added to the concrete. It still bothers me. For me, a single sea shell is a rare prize, something I put in my pocket and take home to display on the knickknack shelf. Here, they mixed them into the concrete to be inevitably beaten to powder by the feet of pedestrians. I try to see it from a Florida point-of-view but I can't help reacting to it as Such Extravagance!

And then there were more flowers 
moth orchid
moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) from southeast Asia or Australia
(orchid family, Orchidaceae)
an epi orchid (Epidendrum) growing on the ground
(orchid family, Orchidaceae)
honey bees
a euphorbia with two honey bees,
(There are 2,000 species in Euphorbia; I can't identify this one. In th
spurge and poinsettia family, Euphorbiaceae)
starburst bush, Clerodendrum quadriloculare from New Guinea
(mint family, Lamiaceae)
And huge trees:

Banyan tree, Edison and Ford Winter Estate, Fort Myers, Florida
Banyan tree, Edison and Ford Winter Estate, Fort Myers, Florida
This banyan tree, probably Ficus benghalensis (fig family Moraceae), the national tree of India is at the Edison and Ford Winter Estate in Fort Myers. It is the largest banyan in the continental U.S. (Although, being tropical, its competitors for that title are pretty well limited to south Florida). All the trunks and branches in the photo, and to my right and left and out of sight behind the trunks you see, are the same plant, one that grew from the 2" diameter, 4' tall plant brought from India in 1925. I can find dimensions for the height (84') and largest trunk of this tree (376"), but its real size is its spread and all I can find for that is "three acres." That ability to spread, drop aerial roots through roofs and walls, and run spreading roots through pavement has made banyans unpopular and they can no longer be planted in Miami, and likely most places in south Florida. Nevertheless, we saw a lot of them.

baobab, Adansonia digitata 
And we saw baobabs (Adansonia digitata, mallow family, Malvaceae). They are called the upside down trees because they never get much of a canopy so the branches look like roots. We saw a few baobabs larger than than this one, but I have trouble taking photos of whole trees. Baobabs are important, iconic trees in Africa. Look how big they can get: link. This one has a long way to grow.

These are images of a few of the spectacular tropical plants introduced to south Florida. I'll talk about native habitats in future blogs.
mallow flower
a mallow looking like a Japanese painting
Comments and corrections welcome.

Glasener, E. 2018. The magic of banyan trees link Accessed 2/28/20.

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist

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