Hidden beneath the asphalt and manicured communities, the condo towers and man-made canals of southeastern Florida, there is Old Florida — very, very Old Florida. It’s the Florida that existed long before Henry Flagler built the railroad that opened this region of the state to developers. It is, perhaps, the Florida that greeted the first settlers.
That idea is what inspired a group of scientists from Florida Atlantic University and Broward Community College. It was 1979, and their article, “A Tropical Fern Grotto In Broward County,” was published in the American Fern Journal. That 247-acre grotto was actually a remnant of how Broward County once looked. More than 30 species of ferns were found living among 200+ species of other plants, all of which inhabited swamp forests, hammocks, pinelands, and prairie ecosystems.
As a result, the land was made a Designated Urban Wilderness Area and named Fern Forest Nature Center. Walking through the habitat, on both boardwalks and natural paths, allows visitors to take a step back in Florida history.
Fern Forest Nature Center is located at 201 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33063. It’s open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., seven days a week, except for some holidays. Check out their calendar for various events.