A Tree Full of Surprises

Jim and I were strolling along the service path by the Deep Lake on a Tuesday early morning visit to the Naples Botanical Garden. I was watching for the sun and clouds to do their dance so an interesting illumination would fall on the palms across the lake or the grasses along the edge on our side.

Then I remembered to look up, toward the other side of the path where the more formal gardens are. Looking up means looking up into trees, but also looking up the side of a hill. Southern Florida is flat, so flat that the only hills are the Interstate overpasses – and a couple of hills in the Botanical Garden. They aren’t natural hills, however. A master plan for the Naples Botanical Garden was drawn up by a very talented team and construction on the first phase of the 170 acres future garden began in 2008 with the digging of Deep Lake and Lake Tupke. This resulted in 250,000 yards of fill for the sculpting of the site creating hills for water falls and raising the “formal” part out of the swampy Everglades landscape. That seems like a whole lot of fill, and I know that a couple of places are higher but not high enough to get my heart pumping as I walk to the highest elevations.

But that was a little (up-hill) digression. When I looked away from the lake I saw these orchids perfectly spotlighted by the morning sun. They are in a fairly large tree.

The tree is a Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and obviously older than the garden, growing quite tall and sprawling along the incline of the hill that forms the Florida Garden. Trees in Florida are usually home to lots of plants – If you look closely you will see Resurrection Fern (looking quite dead) by the orchid and there is Spanish Moss hanging. I recently learned that Spanish Moss isn’t actually a moss, but is a bromeliad with tiny, yellow-green flowers in summer.

We were headed for the Florida Garden and when we reached the walk up onto the hill, I saw more of the orchids and realized that this was the end of Bottlebrush tree – you can see the red bloom. Probably the orchids were propagated in the orchid nursery and attached to the tree because I read that pollination of orchids in the wild is tricky if they aren’t native. We went about half way up the hill (not a high hill by hilly standards, maybe only considered a hill in really flat environments) and when I looked over at the tree I saw orchids planted all along a long horizontal trunk.

Even more surprising is that the trunk is supported by a very large rock. This is a landscape that doesn’t have an abundance of large rocks for landscapes so I would guess that this one was trucked in for this purpose. One of the missions of the Garden is conservation and preservation. I feel fortunate that this tree is growing and being preserved. Many of the old trees were lost in 2017 when Hurricane Erma hit Naples with wind gusts of up to 140 mph.

We are starting to think about going back to Michigan for the summer. This year I’m especially excited about going back because I will get to see and hug kids and grandkids for the first time in over a year. And I am really looking forward to having vaccinated friends over for supper and maybe cards and game playing. As I am thinking about these things, I am also thinking about all the things we will want to do a few more times before leaving Florida. I probably have three more visits to the Botanical Garden so I better make the most of my visit tomorrow morning.

Thanks for joining me.

3 thoughts on “A Tree Full of Surprises

    • It was a strange one. The time seemed long here, maybe because difficulty getting vaccine while we were getting calls from Michigan to schedule one there.

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