Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens (Mrs. Dr. V.)

Today I visited Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Homestead. I knew about Fairchild because it  is the home of the American orchid society (as some of you may know, I have a slight orchid addiction).  To quote from their their website: 
Fairchild gets its name from one of the most famous plant explorers in history, David Fairchild (1869-1954). Dr. Fairchild was known for traveling the world in search of useful plants, but he was also an educator and a renowned scientist. At the age of 22, he created the Section of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the United States Department of Agriculture, and for the next 37 years, he traveled the world in search of plants of potential use to the American people. Fairchild visited every continent in the world (except Antarctica) and brought back hundreds of important plants, including mangos, alfalfa, nectarines, dates, cotton, soybeans, bamboos and the flowering cherry trees that grace Washington D.C. Dr. Fairchild retired to Miami in 1935 and joined a group of passionate plant collectors and horticulturists, including retired accountant Col. Robert H. Montgomery (1872-1953), environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, County Commissioner Charles Crandon and landscape architect William Lyman Phillips. This core group worked tirelessly to bring the idea of a one of a kind botanic garden to life, and in 1938, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden opened its 83 acres to the public for the first time..\ Col. Montgomery, who founded the Garden, named it to honor his friend.
I passed by some amazing flowering plants - most  which I have never seen and could not identify to save my life:

Anyone know this one? I could not find a sign. Chalice vine - solandra maxima
Thanks to my brother-in-law Karl for remotely identifying this for me

shaving brush tree flower (Pseudobombax ellipticum
starfish flower (stapelia gigantea)
Note the flies in the center,a hint to the smell potential

Finally, I came by this promising sign.

Apparently, each year during the cool season (yes, it gets too hot for orchids outside here), the garden staff plant and display orchids in their two acre tropical rainforest. You can get a feeling for the forest below. When orchids were first introduced to Europe and England, people had the misconception that these plants need hot, humid conditions to grow. Hot houses and steam houses were constructed that killed most imported orchids within a few months.The difficulty to keep and flower orchids under little understood cultural requirements, and the demand for more and more exotic orchids, let to over collecting in the wild. This is a problem in the US today as well. Many native orchids, such as the ladyslipper family, do not transplant well. Still, their nursery price tag of $35 to $100+ tempts people to try it anyway.

To help restore South Florida's native orchids, Fairchild Gardens have launched the million orchid project. Information and some interesting historical background can be found here: the-million-orchid-project.

Most orchids are epiphytes, that is they grow on trees, often in the canopies. Many need (relatively) cool and breezy conditions to thrive. Their sun requirements are just as varied,ranging from dappled shade to almost full sun. In the relative cool of March (temperatures in the high 60's and low 70's), by a stream providing humidity, and, to be honest, a team of gardeners providing supports,these plants looked very happy. enjoy the pictures. 

Before I got  too ready to move, however, I almost stepped on a reminder of what we don't have to contend with in Massachusetts. I have no idea if this snake was venomous or not, but it hissed and I did not stop to argue.