Field Trip: Fern Forest Nature Center


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.

Much of Florida sits on limestone. Here, large moss-covered chunks make up the floor of the habitat.

The prairie habitat is adjacent to . . .

. . . the swamp habitat, where the leaves of swamp plants resemble leaves on the reflected branches.

Just about ready to bloom.

A convict caterpillar, which will eventually become a Spanish moth.

Cypress trees make up a large number of the plants growing in the swamp forest. They’re easy to identify because of their “knees.”

A close-up of cypress knees.

Air plant colonies are well established along the branches of many of the trees.

More air plants.

The habitat provides food and shelter for wildlife, either alone . . .

. . . or the whole family.

Fern spores on the underside of a frond.

Marlberry.

Vines are quite happy here.

I’m not sure of this plant’s identity (it could be the invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree) — I just thought it looked like it was ready for the holidays.

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.

Field Trip: Bonnet House


I’ve been intrigued with Bonnet House ever since a water taxi guide pointed it out while we were on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale during one of our first vacations to South Florida. From the water, the 35 acres look like a jungle, a section of property completely undeveloped and straddling the land between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Somewhere in all that greenery, though, was a house — an historic house, a legendary house. The story, according to the water taxi guide — who tells tales of all the mansions along the Intracoastal — is the house was the home of two artists, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett.

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Field Trip: Florida Southern College


Florida Southern College

On a recent visit to Tampa/St. Pete, as Joe and I ventured away from the metropolitan area, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken” — specifically the closing lines:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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Field Trip: Sunken Gardens


Sunken Gardens

In 1903, George Turner, Sr., had an idea.

The plumber and garden enthusiast had recently purchased a plot of land with a shallow lake in St. Petersburg, FL. He decided to drain the lake and turn it into his very own sunken garden.  By 1935, he started to charge admission, making his Sunken Gardens one of the oldest roadside attractions in the country.

So, let’s jump in the car and take a Sunday drive.

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Field Trip: Bok Tower Gardens


Bok Tower Gardens

When I garden, I find myself gardening for the enjoyment of others as well as for myself. I think it’s something we all do — no matter if your garden is a collection of pots on a terrace or a sidewalk-hugging border or acres of formal beds, our gardens are an opportunity for someone walking by or stopped at a red light to take a moment to breathe.

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