Field Trip: Tree Tops Park


When I first heard of Tree Tops Park, I imagined a public park with treehouses and tree walkways to give visitors a bird’s-eye view among the branches and canopy. In reality, the only thing to climb is an observation tower — otherwise, visitors keep their feet on the ground and look upward. No matter how you look at them, though, the trees at Tree Tops Park are tops.

Located in Davie, FL, the park surrounds Pine Island Ridge, which is — at a little over 29 feet — the highest natural land formation in Broward County. As the Everglades formed some 7,000 years ago, the ridge became a natural and ideal place for native peoples to live. For the Seminole Indians, the site remains sacred.

Over the years, the land has been used for raising cattle, farming, and a citrus grove. Remnants of the grove still remain (above). In 1989, Florida purchased the land, and it has been allowed to become what it is today, an oasis in Broward County’s rapidly encroaching urban jungle.

I used the panorama option to get this fallen trunk, which looked to me like a dinosaur bone. Although fallen, the tree is still very much alive.

The view from the observation tower.

Ferns and bromeliads sharing a massive limb.

The photos for this post were all taken with my new iPhone 6S. (Yes, I know the iPhone is into double-digit territory now — but as much as I like toys, I can’t bring myself to purchase the newest model when it will be obsolete within a week after I purchase it.) Normally, I use a Canon digital camera, but I was curious to see how the iPhone, very convenient to carry along, would translate to the blog.

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.

Bloomin’ Update 60: An Autumnal Interlude


If the transition from winter to spring in South Florida is subtle, the one between summer and fall is practically invisible. While autumn is already a few weeks old — according to the calendar and posts from northern gardeners — the weather forecasters in Zone 10 say that anything resembling fall (temperatures below 70) will not arrive until sometime in November — and that will most likely happen while I’m fast asleep.

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Living And Working In Eden


For decades, Joe and I — first, as tourists; now, as residents — have looked around South Florida and said, “Florida, my Eden.” We’ve said it as we’ve marveled at the lush tree canopy of botanical gardens, as we’ve gazed at tables of flowers and fields of shrubs and trees in local nurseries, as we’ve walked about and worked in our own garden, and as I took photos for this post.

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Two Guys And A Farm


When Santiago Arroyo (left) met Jason Long (right), it was the start of a bountiful friendship. When the two men worked side-by-side in a Florida-farmer apprenticeship program, they not only cultivated a friendship but they shared a common vision of how farming could change the way people live, eat, and think about food.

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