The chill is gone

Monday, February 18, 2013

After a rainy cold front, the colors of Earth always brighter in the chill sunlight that follows. The Garden is no exception on this President's Day. Martin Feather, manager of the butterfly exhibit at the Clinton Family Conservatory, was in shirt sleeves Monday morning, relishing the 50-degree weather and grateful that so many of his charges were still alive. Volunteers brought cold-stunned butterflies into the metamorphosis lab to gradually warm up again. Some of the newly hatched ...

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Visit to a morning glory

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Euglossa viridissima, an exotic bee. Poking around Cape Florida last Friday, I came across a These bees visit 'gullet' flowers, such as this morning glory. beautiful metallic green bee hovering around a morning glory. Turns out it is the euglossine orchid bee, Euglossa viridissima, that Bob Pemberton, retired entomologist, first described after finding it at his Fort Lauderdale garden about seven years ago. This species of bee has naturalized in South Florida. Primarily an orchid pollinator ...

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Good for dry times

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pretty yellow flowers on thryallis hold up in dry times. When there is little rain, as there has been for the last two months, many plants begin to show their unhappiness by shedding leaves, allowing their leaves to sag, or putting on an unhappy demeanor. A few plants are able to soldier on, and one of them is thryallis, Galphimina gracilis. Its sun-yellow flowers are an indication of its disposition in dry times. Native to Mexico and Central America, this drought-resistant shrub once was a ...

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Young artists depict endangered plants

Monday, January 14, 2013

Art in the employ of science is what botanical illustration is all about. The pre-K through 5th graders who participated in this year's Fairchild Challenge learned about South Florida's endangered plants by drawing them. I peeked at the display last week and found a wonderful colorful interpretation of nature that could grace a museum. Take a look at some of the work. Ghost orchid, Samantha Tendrich,grade 3, Leewood K-8. Fragrant maidenhair, by Ava Sanjabi, grade 5, Palmetto...

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Last year's spectacular bird show in Everglades National Park was superior to anything I've seen. Yet, this year, while the birds were fewer, there was an incident over Eco Pond that nearly led to catastrophe in the sky. While tracking the roseate spoonbill, I caught a pair of snowy egrets about to collide. You will be happy to know they worked it out. Snowy egrets and a roseate spoonbill: the FAA would cringe....

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Northern Parula, male: tiny warbler. On the last day of 2012, the Garden is in fabulous form. The vine pergola, in particular, is hung with brilliant flowers, including the shockingly bright orange of the flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta), the candy corn vine (Watagea spicata), a curtain of sky vine (Thunbergia grandifolia) being worked tenaciously by bees, chalice vine (Solandra maxima) and Clerodendrum splendens. The Petrea volubilis and Clerodendrum thomsoniae Delectum' gracing the...

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A rare sight

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Female flowers of Alvaradoaamorphoides. One of South Florida's rare trees, Mexican alvaradoa (Alvaradoa amorphoides) is blooming at the Garden in plot 43, which is near the Visitors Center. This small tree is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate trees. Male flower spikes are long and dangling; females are shorter and fatter, with each small green capsule being an ovary. The tree is one of the host plants for the Dina Yellow butterfly (Pyrisita dina). The other host is...

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Awesome in the right light

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gloxinia sylvatica. Seeing red (or orange) at this time of year? We're not thinking poinsettias here, but they are in profusion everywhere we look. During a morning walk through the Garden we were struck by the light on two plants: Gloxinia sylvatica and Juanulloa mexicana. Each offered an expression of nature's magic with chemistry: plant production of secondary metabolites, such as anthocyanin and flavonoids that create red and yellow pigments. More often than not, we take these...

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Starring a Winter Fruit

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Averrhoa carambola 'Thai Knight'. Carambolas (Averrhoa carambola) are in full of fruit now and the branches of our home trees are bending beneath their weight. Carambolas, or star fruit, come from Southeast Asia where, says tropical fruit expert Jonathan Crane, they have been grown for centuries. The cultivar called Arkin,' which came from Malaysia, was introduced to South Florida in 1973. I remember interviewing Morris Arkin, who grew the seeds in Coral Gables. Arkin also developed...

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Winter Pests

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stippling on leaves. When hot, or even pleasant, and dry weather descends on us, Red spider mites. there are some things to watch for in the garden. One is red spider mites. These tiny red insects hide out on the bottom of leaves and suck cell sap, creating a stipple effect on the top of the leaves. I am finding them all over the passion vine Passiflora incarnata. They also love soft-leaved orchids. Once you see the stippling, you may need a hand lens to observe the insects on the underside ...

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