Traveling the Ft. Lauderdale Area

We just recently got back from yet another trip to South Florida, and have once again proven just how much can be explored in a day or two.  It baffles me that any Floridian would pay good money to take a trip out of state or even the country when there's so much to see and do just hours away!  My fiance and I have always taken every opportunity to travel Florida's scenic beauty, be it through hiking, camping or simply getting lost through many wrong turns, and we've gotten pretty familiar with a good chunk of peninsular Florida in the last several years. 

Strolling Las Olas
In the off season you can get some great deals on hotels like the one we got at the beach in Ft. Lauderdale.  I generally prefer waking on a more natural beach, like one in a state park, but I did find a couple sea beans and even got to explain what they were to some visitors from out of state!  We also had the chance to walk down Las Olas Blvd. to check out the shops and pretty gardens on the way.  The garden below artfully combines oyster plant, duranta, purple crinum and some huge alcantarea imperialis bromeliads.  I am a strong advocate of using chartreuse and dark burgundy and purple, so this was a nice demonstration. 


Too Many Palms
Oh, and if Antigonum Cajan is reading this, I will say that coastal South Florida is absolutely inundated with a tacky mass of palm trees to please the snowbirds and I usually do get pretty tired of royal palms when I'm visiting.  I wish people would use some moderation and use them in a more naturalistic style, jutting out of other south florida natives like stoppers and wild coffee.  If anyone wants to see royal palm trees the way they were meant to be seen, visit the Fakahatchee Strand near Naples and you'll be blown away.

Sandoway House Nature Center
This converted historic home/museum was a bit of a disappointment, if only because we had to pay a stiff entrance fee of $4 a person and had to listen to a 30 minute long snoozefest of a speech by a grumpy old lady before getting to look around for ourselves.  I mean no disrespect to the more experienced readers out there with regards with the "old" comment, but this know it all liked to argue with everything you said and also happened to "forget" to give us our change.  So there.  Oh yeah, there was also a big grumpy parrot that wanted to eat my face off.
On the plus side, there was a huge shell collection, a butterfly garden, terrariums, and a big pool with native reef fish like nurse sharks and an adorable and huge pufferfish that liked to follow us around, breaching out of the water in hopes of obtaining food.  Here's a crappy shot of a monarch caterpillar chowing down on an asclepias.

Deerfield Beach Arboretum
My last post featured some photos of this hidden gem, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone in the area.  Its a free city park, containing tennis and basketball courts, an exercise trail and a playground all within the setting of a botanical garden complete with an impressive collection of fruit trees, flowering trees, perennials, vines, palms and natives.  We visited on the first day when it was rainy and got to hunger down in this great pagoda.

I think that rainy days make for the best photos personally, but more flowers were open on the second day when it was nice and sunny.  Here's a nice chalice vine, smelling strongly of lotion, I think.

Chalice vine

A Baobab trunk

Coccoloba Rugosa, a huge leaved seagrape relative with red flowers.

Slender lady palm, flowering and fruiting.  I'll have to get one of these!

Another shot of my favorite tree from this trip, the shaving brush tree.  I did some reading on it and apparently pseudobombax ellipticum is a great xeriscaping tree too!  According to my old book, "Flowering Trees for Central and South Florida", its flowers open at night with an explosive sound when the petals curl open!  This is definitely one to try in a container if I can find one.

Daggerwing Nature Center
I was a bit surprised by this city run nature center in Boca Raton, but what else should I expect from the city that brought us Gumbo Limbo Nature Center?  There was a great butterfly garden in front of the facility, and beyond that was a boardwalk through a young swamp with crystal clear waters.  There were even morning glories, cocoplum and seagrapes growing right out of the swamp, perhaps owing to the extra oxygen afforded by the clear and swiftly moving water.  

A jatropha blooming in front of the nature center

A view from halfway up the observation tower

Tropical World Nursery
Our last stop was this amazing nursery I found online, located in Boynton Beach.  Not only was there a huge collection of tropicals, there were even mini nurseries like a Native plant nursery that had some of the rarest natives in Florida.  I regret not buying that simpson's stopper after all, but I suppose I couldn't pass up the two bromeliads that I ended up with.  The first one is a rare dyckia called "red planet" that I can't find much info on, which has an even stronger color than the "cherry coke" variety.  They were on sale for $5 each since the ferocious leaves were nibbled on by rabbits (brave, brave, rabbits), but I think the one I chose still looked pretty good.  Here's a shot of this cold hardy, nibbled upon, showstopper.

The best deal was on an aechmea that appears to be in the ortgiesea alliance like gamosepala and apocolyptica, but the nurseryman wasn't sure of what kind it was.  It was a huge clump growing in a little container so I got it for a really great price.

This was a super-long post, but hopefully you stuck with me this far.  Thanks for reading!


  1. It looks like you had a great trip, and you're right about Florida offering so many diverse and varied venues to visit. I love that bromeliad on's GREAT, and the color combo is a winner. Thanks for sharing your trips with us.

  2. Ooh, I love those bromeliads! Sounds like a great trip. Those are all my kind of places! And how wonderful that cities have such nice garden-parks...and free. There are far worse ways to spend our tax dollars. Love those tropicals...the baobab(!), the chalice vine, the bombax...all favorites of mine. Great pics!

  3. You visited all my hangouts!!! Well, at least some of them! I made a pufferfish blow up at Gumbo Limbo! I love dyckia! Was at Sandoway House with my kids and grandkids last year for a shark feeding!!! Glad you had fun!!!

  4. I think both you had a wonderful trip, amazing pictures.

  5. Did not know you were in the neighbourhood :) Glad that you liked the visit,and what a great deal you got for those bromeliad! Love that picture you took in Las Olas with the combination of purple crinum and the huge alcantarea imperialis bromeliads. Stunning!

  6. The Deerfield Beach Arboretum looks very cool!

  7. Glad to see those durantas coming back. They look like mine...dead on the bottom and green on top.

  8. I love Florida too. It is always a botanical adventure. It just needs a ridge of mountains down its back and it would be perfect :lol:

    You have probably already been there but try Fairchild Botanical Garden in Miami. It is one of my favorites in the US.

    The Shaving Brush is a cool tree. Someone once told me you can grow it in pot in nontropical areas. I want to try that sometime.

  9. aloha,

    i'm also enjoying your tour...that pagoda is beautiful, i'm planning a japanese garden and this would be ideal...think they wouldn't mind if i slept this over to my yard???

  10. Thanks for the tour - those walkways look great, and as usual you have lots of information. I love that spiky bromeliad it will be interesting to see what flower emerges.

  11. The shaving brush tree is ultra awesome! WOW! Your tour is passed right by me on your way down. Bummer you didn't stop and say hi. If you come down again, let me know so I can have a crinum pup (or two) waiting for you!!

  12. Steve, you have interesting looking plants on yr blog. I love the different colours and textures.

  13. Antigonum has read this great post. The difference between Puercorico and Florida is that here no matter where one goes is the same dull, worn out plant/tree/palm selection.

    Your pictures demonstrate that
    variety is eye, spirit, aesthetically pleasing...


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