Our Florida Yard in Fall

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Red Passion Flower

Red Passion Flower

Goldfish Vine

Goldfish Vine

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Here are scenes from our Florida yard in November.  So many beautiful flowers blooming all the time, and the baby raccoons are adorable!

Florida: Huge Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower 1

Cactus Flower 1

Cactus Flower 2

Cactus Flower 2

Cactus Flower 3

Cactus Flower 3

Cactus Flower 4

Cactus Flower 4

Apple-like Fruit of Cactus

Apple-like Fruit of Cactus

Inside of Cactus Fruit

Inside of Cactus Fruit

Our night blooming “Apple Cactus” flower opened around midnight one evening last week (Cereus peruvianus monstrose). Common names for the many different varieties of night blooming cacti include “Queen of the Night” and “Princess of the Night”.   I dug out our camera gear and photographed the flower for about an hour, while fighting off hordes of mosquitoes. The apple cactus is native to South America, and is named after its edible red fruit (a similar fruit available in the grocery store is the “dragon fruit”).  The delicate white petals of the cactus flower remind me of feathers. This huge 6-inch flower is a real beauty!

Florida: Sebastian Beach and Fishing Jetty

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Colorful Water at Sebastian Beach

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Walking Out onto Sebastian Fishing Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Dark Area is School of Fantail Mullet Swimming Toward Jetty

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Close-up of Fantail Mullet

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Barracuda with Razor Sharp Teeth Swimming Along Jetty

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Sea Turtle Head Above Water

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Beautiful Pattern on Back of Sea Turtle Head

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Sanderlings Running Back and Forth with the Ocean Waves

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Rare Frigatebird Sighting (notice red throat pouch)

Black Skimmer on Beach

Black Skimmer on Beach

Beach Morning Glory

Beach Morning Glory

We always enjoy visiting Sebastian Inlet State Park.  The beach is beautiful, and we never know what we’ll see from the fishing jetty.  More info is at: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Sebastian-Inlet

Joshua Tree National Park – A Favorite!

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Mojave Mound Cactus

Mojave Mound Cactus

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks

Close-up of Rock Formation

Close-up of Rock Formation

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

We always enjoying visiting Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of California – it is one of our favorites! 

The spiny Cholla Cactus Garden is a wonderful place to take a careful walk (no sandals or flip-flops allowed). We got extra lucky when we visited because a sun ring formed in the sky above us – amazing!  More info on how sun halos form is at: http://earthsky.org/space/what-makes-a-halo-around-the-moon  

Joshua trees are fun to see because they come in so many shapes and sizes as a result of the environment. They are a member of the lily family. The rocky landscape is quite scenic, and is criss-crossed by multiple earthquake faults.  The San Andreas Fault forms the southern boundary of the park. More info about these faults is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/faults.htm   More info about visiting Joshua Tree National Park is at: http://www.joshuatree.org/

 

McKee Gardens: Amazing LEGO Sculptures!

LEGO Hummingbird

LEGO Hummingbird

LEGO Almost 7 Foot Tall Rose

LEGO 7 Foot Tall Rose

LEGO Close-up of Rose Petals

LEGO Close-up of Rose Petals

LEGO Swallowtail Butterfly

LEGO Swallowtail Butterfly

LEGO Swallowtail Butterfly in Bamboo Grove

LEGO Swallowtail Butterfly in Bamboo Grove

LEGO Dragonfly on Pond

LEGO Dragonfly on Pond

LEGO Koi and Waterlily

LEGO Koi and Lilypad

LEGO Frog on Lilypad

LEGO Frog on Lilypad

LEGO Victoria Waterlily

LEGO Victoria Waterlily

Real Victoria Waterlily

Real Victoria Waterlily

LEGO Flying Bee

LEGO Flying Bee

LEGO Rabbit and Fox

LEGO Rabbit and Fox

LEGO Fox in Woods

LEGO Fox in Woods

LEGO Bison and Calf

LEGO Bison and Calf

LEGO Life Size Gardener

LEGO Life Size Gardener

LEGO Life Size Lawn Mower

LEGO Life Size Lawn Mower

LEGO Sprouting Acorn

LEGO Sprouting Acorn

LEGO Goldfinches at Feeder Filled with LEGO Birdseed

LEGO Goldfinches at Feeder Filled with LEGO Birdseed

There is a  special “Nature Connects, a LEGO Brick Exhibition” currently on display at McKee Gardens, Vero Beach, Florida, from January 16 – April 12, 2015.  The sculptures are incredible!  Artist Sean Kenney has transformed children’s toys into real works of art.  His pieces have been shown at galleries, museums, tourist attractions, and on television.  More info about Sean and his amazing LEGO art is at:  http://www.seankenney.com/  Info on visiting McKee Gardens is at:  http://www.mckeegarden.org/  Click on any of the pictures for more detailed information about each art piece.

Amazing Agave Flower Stalk

Agave Flower Stalk Starting to Grow (August 12, 2014)

Agave Flower Stalk Starting to Grow (August 12, 2014)

Agave Flower Stalk Rising (August 18, 2014)

Agave Flower Stalk Rising (August 18, 2014)

Richard Beside Fast Growing Agave Flower Stalk (September 4, 2014)

Richard Beside Fast Growing Agave Flower Stalk (September 4, 2014)

Agave Flower Stalk Branches Opening Out (September 16, 2014)

Agave Flower Stalk Branches Opening Out (September 16, 2014)

Richard Beside Agave Flower Stalk (Nov. 1, 2014)

Richard Beside Agave Flower Stalk (Nov. 1, 2014)

Richard Looking up at 16 Foot Tall Agave Flower Stalk (Nov. 6, 2014)

Richard Looking up at 16 Foot Tall Agave Flower Stalk (Nov. 6, 2014)

Agave Flower Stalk at End of Bloom (Jan. 24, 2015).  Sandhill Crane is on Left.

Agave Flower Stalk at End of Bloom (Jan. 24, 2015). Sandhill Crane is on Left.

Comparison Between Asparagus and Agave Flower Stalks

Comparison Between Asparagus and Agave Flower Stalks

Agave Flowers Attract Honeybees

Agave Flowers Attract Honeybees

Agave Babies May Grow from Flower Stalk Branches after Blooming Ends

Agave Babies May Grow from Flower Stalk Branches after Blooming Ends

Close-up of Baby Agave

Close-up of Baby Agave

In August our 2-year-old agave plant surprised us, and starting sending up a massive flower stalk. It is staggering how quickly it grows. Final height has reached 16 feet – it is quite the show-stopper! Agave are members of the asparagus family (which includes yuccas and ponytail palms). Although the mother plant dies after the plant flowers, there are always several baby plants clustered around the base to take its place. Sometimes an agave will also grow baby plants straight off the flower stalk branches. Products of agave include nectar (a light liquid similar to honey) and tequila. Agave are often called century plants, but happily they don’t actually take a century to bloom!

Florida: Flower Garden in January

Passion Flower - Side View

Passion Flower – Side View

Blue Sky Vine Flower

Blue Sky Vine Flower

Whirligig Daisies

Whirligig Daisies

Powder Puff Flowers

Powder Puff Flowers

Pink Hibiscus with Rain Drops

Pink Hibiscus with Rain Drops

Fancy Orange Hibiscus

Fancy Orange Hibiscus

Aloe Flowers

Aloe Flowers

Stapeliad Starfish Flowers

Stapeliad Starfish Flowers

Agave Leaf with Rain Drops

Agave Leaf with Rain Drops

Agave Spine with Rain Drop Magnifying Plant Below

Agave Spine with Rain Drop Magnifying Plant Below

Mammillaria Cactus with Tiny Pink Blooms

Mammillaria Cactus with Tiny Pink Blooms

Cactus Spine Patterns

Cactus Spine Patterns

Purple Shamrock Flowers (Love Plant)

Purple Shamrock Flowers (Love Plant)

Our Fountain at Dusk

Our Fountain at Dusk

One of the advantages to living in Florida is that you can garden year round.  That is a big plus if you like flowers!  We just bought a new batch of plants today.  Here is what’s in bloom in our yard (click on any picture for more information or to enlarge).

Pink Florida “Snow”

Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Pink Large Flower Pusley

Pink Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Flying to Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Flying to Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Sticking Head into Large Flower Pusley

Honeybee Sticking Head into Large Flower Pusley

Green Bee on Large Flower Pusley

Green Bee on Large Flower Pusley

Great Egret Sitting in Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Great Egret Sitting in Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Wood Stork Standing in Field of Pink Florida "Snow"

Wood Stork Standing in Field of Pink Florida “Snow”

Right now we see fields of pink “Florida Snow” when driving around town.  These fields are composed of Large Flower Pusley, which is also known as Mexican Clover (species Richardia grandiflora). The honeybees are crazy for it, so never run barefoot through these flowers.  We see bees sticking their heads far into the flower cups to drink the sweet nectar, and also collecting balls of white pollen.  These flowers are a delightful treat in winter!

Florida: Return to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Extremely Rare "Booger" Bromeliad (Globose guzmania)

Extremely Rare “Booger” Bromeliad (Globose guzmania)

Ant Plant (tuber gives ants a home and sweet sap; in return the ants protect and fertilize the plant)

Ant Plant (tuber gives ants a home and sweet sap; in return the ants protect and fertilize the plant)

Anthurium with Yellow Spathe

Anthurium with Yellow Spathe

Dove or Holy Ghost Orchid (Peristeria elata).  Endangered in Wild; National Flower of Panama.  "Bird" is in Center of Flower.

Dove or Holy Ghost Orchid (Peristeria elata). Endangered in Wild; National Flower of Panama. “Bird” is in Center of Flower.

Zygopetalum Orchid

Zygopetalum Orchid

Pink Tropical Lily (Amaryllis species)

Pink Tropical Lily (Amaryllis species)

Beautiful Lined Leaf

Beautiful Lined Leaf

Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana)

Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana)

Pitcher Plant (Monkey Cup)

Pitcher Plant (Monkey Cup)

Pitcher Plant with Gold Lip

Pitcher Plant with Gold Lip

Bamboo (World's Biggest Grass and Strong as Lumber)

Bamboo (World’s Biggest Grass and Strong as Lumber)

Banyan Tree (one tree expands into a "forest" with aerial prop roots that grow down to soil from branches)

Banyan Tree (one tree expands into a “forest” with aerial prop roots that grow down to soil from branches)

Hugging Tree Sign with Row of Bromeliads "Hugging" the Top

Hugging Tree Sign with Row of Bromeliads “Hugging” the Top

Hugging Tree Sign Describing Epiphytes

Hugging Tree Sign Describing Epiphytes

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is an excellent place to see rare and beautiful plants in Sarasota, Florida. The gardens are gorgeous! The organization is dedicated to botanical research, education, and conservation. The Tropical Conservatory houses rare bromeliads and orchids from around the world that bloom year round. The gardens specialize in epiphytes – plants that cling to other plants and have no roots in the ground (such as bromeliads, ferns, orchids, and pitcher plants).  After you finish visiting the garden, it is only a 5 minute drive across the causeway to Sarasota’s white sugar sand beaches and Mote Marine Laboratory. More info is at:  http://selby.org/  A previous post is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/florida-marie-selby-botanical-gardens/  An interesting article about exotic Asian tropical flowers and pitcher plants is at:  http://factsanddetails.com/asian/cat68/sub435/item2425.html

California: Return to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Flowering Joshua Tree

Flowering Joshua Tree

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Joshua Tree is one of our favorite national parks (near Twentynine Palms, California). The trees are giant members of the Yucca family. The largest tree in the park is 42 feet tall, 34 feet wide, and has a trunk 9 feet around. Although trees start off growth as a single stalk, each one quickly develops its own unique shape due to damage to the growing tips. Joshua trees have a very important role in the Mojave High Desert ecosystem. This beautiful landscape has been featured in many movies and TV shows. More info is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/naturescience/jtrees.htm   A previous post is at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/joshua-tree-national-park/

Anza Borrego: Native Palm Oases and Carizzo Badlands Overlook

Native Palm Groves Sign

Native Palm Groves Sign

Pygmy Grove Oasis

Pygmy Grove Oasis

Washington Fan Palm with Skirt of Dead Fronds

Washington Fan Palm with Skirt of Dead Fronds

Cholla Cactus Growing on Mica-Studded Granite Rock Slopes

Cholla Cactus Growing on Mica-Studded Granite Rock Slopes

Barrel Cactus Surviving with Few Roots

Barrel Cactus Surviving with Few Roots

Flowering Barrel Cactus

Flowering Barrel Cactus

Panorama at Carizzo Badlands Overlook (click on picture to enlarge)

Panorama at Carizzo Badlands Overlook (click on picture to enlarge)

Carizzo Badlands Landscape

Carizzo Badlands Landscape

Close-up of Carizzo Badlands and San Jacinto Fault Zone

Close-up of Carizzo Badlands and San Jacinto Fault Zone

The southern region of Anza Borrego Desert State Park contains many treasures. We especially enjoyed hiking on Mountain Palm Springs trail, which leads to several native palm oases.  The oases here form where groundwater seeps up to the surface along the Elsinore fault zone. The trail begins up a dry wash leading past cholla and barrel cactus.  The landscape’s white granite rock contains mica that sparkles in the sun.  The first group of palms encountered along the trail is the Pygmy Grove. The “skirts” of dead fronds on the palms provide shelter to owls, bats, snakes, and many other creatures. In Fall and early winter, animals feast on the palms’ sweet sticky dates.

A little further south is a spectacular vista overlooking the Carizzo Badlands. As you look out at the Coyote Mountains, you are looking at the active San Jacinto earthquake fault zone. These mountains are rich in fossils of mastodons, camels, zebras, and sabertooth tigers from a million years ago. What was really amazing was that no one else was around when we visited – the only sound we could hear was the wind. Not a car, not a plane, only silence. It was magical. More info about the geology and natural history of Anza Borrego is at: http://www.abdnha.org/anza-borrego-desert-geology.htm

 

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Spring

Prairie Wetlands

Prairie Wetlands

Alligator Sunning on Bank

Alligator Sunning on Bank

Pond Turtle

Pond Turtle

Green Heron Fishing

Green Heron Fishing

Green Heron Plunging for Fish (yes he pulled himself back up on perch)

Green Heron Plunging for Fish (yes he pulled himself back up on perch)

Crayfish Burrow

Crayfish Burrow

Spanish Moss Draped Oak Tree

Spanish Moss Draped Oak Tree

Pickerelweed in Pond

Pickerelweed in Pond

Duck Potato

Duck Potato

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Daisy Fleabane

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Daisy Fleabane

Open land stretches to the horizon at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (south of Orlando, Florida). Spring is an especially good time to visit. If you look closely, you can see all kinds of wonderful plants and animals. A previous post about this special park is at: https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/florida-kissimmee-prairie-state-park/     More info is at: http://floridabirdingtrail.com/index.php/trip/trail/Kissimmee_Prairie_Preserve_State_Park/

Spectacular Silk Floss Tree!

Thorny Trunk of Tree

Thorny Trunk of Tree

Tree in Early Spring

Tree in Early Spring

Close-up of Branches and Pods

Close-up of Branches and Pods

Pod Bursting Open to Reveal Silk

Pod Bursting Open to Reveal Silk

Cottony Silk Ball on Tree

Cottony Silk Ball on Tree

The Silk Floss Tree is spectacular year round!  It is native to Brazil and Argentina, and can be quickly recognized by its spiny trunk.  In Fall the tree drops its leaves and becomes covered with clouds of pink flowers.  The lily-like flowers produce rich nectar and attract abundant butterflies.  By early spring (before leafing out) it is covered with avocado-like seed pods filled with cottony silk.  This exotic tree puts on quite a show!  It grows well in mild climates like Florida and California.  I want to plant one soon!

Florida: Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom

Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom in Our Backyard

Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom in Our Backyard

Closed Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom at St. Sebastian River Preserve

Closed Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom at St. Sebastian River Preserve

Open Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom at St. Sebastian River Preserve

Open Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom at St. Sebastian River Preserve

The most incredible mushroom is growing in our backyard here in Florida – the octopus stinkhorn.  As you can imagine, it lives up to its “stinky” name, and has arms like an octopus.  When I first saw it, I thought it looked like a red starfish with its arms closed together.  Now that I know what it is, I need to keep an eye on it and get a better quality photograph than this one taken with my cell phone.  The octopus stinkhorn mushroom originally came from Australia, and probably got exported with sheep’s wool.  What a neat plant!  More info and pictures are at:  http://www.kuriositas.com/2013/10/fungtopus-incredible-fungus-that-looks.html.

UPDATE:  We saw the Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom while out hiking at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park – South Entrance trail in December 2014.  Pictures 2 and 3 are from that sighting.  A mere touch of a finger triggered the mushroom to open.

Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park: Spectacular Mountain Scenery!

Spectacular Tetons in Fall

Spectacular Tetons in Fall

Snowy Tetons and Rustic Fence

Snowy Tetons and Rustic Fence

Tetons and Snake River

Tetons and Snake River

Frozen Jackson Lake

Frozen Jackson Lake

Snowy Teton Peaks

Snowy Teton Peaks

Snow-Covered Trees

Snow-Covered Trees

Bare Aspen Trees in Winter

Bare Aspen Trees in Winter

Orange Aspen Trees in Fall

Orange Aspen Trees in Fall

Preserved Reed Moulton Barn and Tetons

Preserved Reed Moulton Barn and Tetons

Lonely Reed Moulton Homestead on Historic Mormon Row

Lonely Reed Moulton Homestead on Historic Mormon Row

Preserved Thomas A. Moulton Barn on Mormon Row (100th anniversary in July 2013)

Preserved Thomas A. Moulton Barn on Mormon Row (100th anniversary in July 2013)

Elk Antler Arch over Bench in Jackson

Elk Antler Arch over Bench in Jackson

Grand Teton National Park is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery!  The views are stunning and ever-changing throughout the year. The Teton mountains rise over a mile above the valley floor, and make quite an impression.  The pristine ecosystem contains numerous bodies of water, including the Snake River and Jackson Lake.  Historic churches and Mormon settlements are also located within the park.  There is much to see and do, and we highly recommend a visit to this beautiful place!  A live webcam of downtown Jackson and its famous antler arch is at:  http://www.alltravelcams.com/jackson_hole_wyoming/town_square.php

Florida Hidden Gem: Highlands Hammock State Park

Fern-Lined Trail

Fern-Lined Trail

Boardwalk over Swamp

Boardwalk over Swamp

Narrow Catwalk over Water

Narrow Catwalk over Water

Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees

Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees

Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk

Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk

Bald Cypress Knees in Water

Bald Cypress Knees in Water

Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns

Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns

Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water

Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water

Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk

Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk

Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail

Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail

Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak

Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak

Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak

Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak

Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak

Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak

Highlands Hammock State Park is a hidden gem!  It is located near Sebring, Florida (south of Orlando), and is one of the state’s oldest parks.  It was initially submitted for status as a national park, but was considered too small.  The park first opened to the public in 1931, and the catwalk over the Cypress Swamp was built in 1933. 

Bald cypress trees grow throughout the swamp.  The trees send up fantastic knobby roots (“knees”) above the water line.  Theories about the purpose of the knees range from helping the plant breathe, to providing stability in the water.  One tree was even growing over and onto the boardwalk.  Walk carefully on the narrow catwalk, and watch for alligators.  This lush jungle feels like it is straight out of Jurassic Park! 

Other trails lead through the Ancient Hammock and to some of the state’s oldest trees.  The Big Oak is over 1,000 years old, 36 feet around, and still has some new growth sprouting at the top.  If you look carefully, you can see the Big Oak’s tree surgery in 1930.  At that time people thought you could stabilize and extend the life of a tree by filling the hollow space inside with concrete.  More info about Highlands Hammock State Park is at:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Highlands-Hammock

And by the way, Florida just won the National Gold Medal for Excellence in the United States Park System again – the only state to have won three times!

Monterey: Scenic Lover’s Point

Scenic Lover's Point

Scenic Lover’s Point

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Brewer's Blackbird and Ice Plants

Brewer’s Blackbird and Ice Plants

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover's Point

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover’s Point

We’ve just returned from a trip celebrating our anniversary along the California coast. One of the most scenic places we visited was Lover’s Point at Monterey, California. The pink ice plants are particularly stunning this time of year!

McKee Gardens: Beauty in May

Main Waterlily Pond and Bridge

Main Waterlily Pond and Bridge

Pink Waterlilies

Pink Waterlilies

Purple Waterlily

Purple Waterlily

White Spider Lily Side View

White Spider Lily Side View

White Spider Lily Front View

White Spider Lily Front View

Lotus Leaves

Lotus Leaves

Spider Amaryllis

Spider Amaryllis

Pelican Flower Bud

Pelican Flower Bud

Pelican Flower Bloom

Pelican Flower Bloom

Sausage Tree

Sausage Tree

Old Man Palm (left) and Rainbow Gum Eucalyptus (right)

Old Man Palm (left) and Rainbow Gum Eucalyptus (right)

Rainbow Gum Eucalyptus Bark

Rainbow Gum Eucalyptus Bark

Ornamental Pink Pineapple

Ornamental Pink Pineapple

Shell Ginger

Shell Ginger

McKee Gardens is especially gorgeous in May. What a beautiful time of year in Florida!

Florida: Big Talbot Island Driftwood

Driftwood on Beach

Driftwood on Beach

Driftwood on Sand

Driftwood on Sand

Driftwood Logs

Driftwood Logs

Big Talbot Island State Park has the only beach in Florida that is covered in driftwood!  The wood comes from trees that have fallen from the eroded bluffs above the beach.  Over time the wood is polished by the sand and surf.  The bleached-out trunks have given rise to its popular name “Boneyard Beach”.   More info on this unique beach north of Jacksonville is at:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland/

McKee Gardens: More Frabel Glass Art

Glass Lily

Glass Butterfly

Glass Bird Glowing in Sun

Glass Ball Tower

Glass Longfellow Strolling on Lilypads

Glass Longfellow Pair Backlit

Glass Longfellow Closeup

We enjoyed Frabel’s glass art at McKee Gardens so much that we returned for more photography.  The art looks different every time due to changing weather and light conditions.  http://frabelglass.com/

McKee Gardens: Frabel’s Glass Art

Glass Art on Mahogany Table

Glass Man in Wavy Lacework Bowl

Glass Magnolia Blossom

Glass Bird-of-Paradise

Glass Calla Lily

Glass Longfellows and Cubes

Glass Longfellows Walking on Lilypads

Glass Longfellow Sitting on Leaf

Red Glass Birds on Tree

Orange Glass Bird on Rock

"Blue Calla Flare" Glass Sculpture

“Blue Calla Flare” Glass Sculpture

McKee Gardens currently features a new exhibit by Hans Godo Frabel, who is famous for his flamework glass art.  The art in the garden is simply stunning!  Frabel is based in Atlanta, and his studios there are open to visitors:  http://frabelglass.com/

Florida Loves Oranges!

Citrus Slices

Glass of Fresh Florida Orange Juice

Glass of Fresh Florida Orange Juice

Harvey’s Groves Tin Sign

Orange World – “World’s Biggest Orange”

Melbourne Big Orange

Disney World’s Orange Bird

Florida loves oranges!  We have orchards full of fruit, great big orange buildings, and orange-themed toys and mascots. 

The citrus season is now in full swing.  Orange groves along the Indian River Lagoon between Cocoa and Fort Pierce grow some of the sweetest fruit in the world.  Peak sweetness is from December-March, when the juice tastes just like candy!  I stock up on fruit and juice at Harveys:  http://www.harveysgroves.com/   I hope you enjoy some “liquid sunshine” too.

The “World’s Biggest Orange” is in Kissimmee, Florida. The building is a well-known landmark for airplanes.  This family-run business has been shipping fruit and selling souvenirs since 1973:  http://www.orangeworld192.com/

Our local “Big Orange” is a landmark on U.S. 1 north of Melbourne.  In the 1960s it was home to the Chamber of Commerce, and was used as a place to give out orange juice to tourists.  Now it stands in front of a local Veterans’ Center.

The Orange Bird was an original character created for Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1971.  Recently the Orange Bird returned to Disney World’s Adventureland.  If you visit, be sure to try the delicious citrus swirl ice cream.  Fun vintage pictures and articles about the Orange Bird are at:

http://www.imagineeringdisney.com/blog/2012/3/20/florida-orange-bird.html

http://www.imagineeringdisney.com/blog/2012/4/17/florida-orange-bird-part-2.html

http://www.omniluxe.net/wyw/stt.htm

California: Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Farms

Halloween-Theme Painted Horse at Lemos Farm

Arata Pumpkin Farm

Mini Pumpkins

Pumpkin Path at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm

Half Moon Bay is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”.  The area produces more than 3,000 tons of pumpkins every year and ships them worldwide. Every October, Half Moon Bay hosts a popular Art and Pumpkin Festival that includes a pumpkin weigh-off contest.  This year’s winning pumpkin topped the scales at 1,775 pounds!  The Halloween-theme painted horse stands in front of the Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay.  It is repainted regularly to reflect the seasons.  Pictures of past designs are at the bottom of the page at:  https://www.lemosfarm.com/seasonal

Walking Among the Oldest Trees on Earth

Drive to Bristlecone Pine Forest

Scenic Overlook near Bristlecone Pine Forest

Bristlecone Pine Forest on Mountaintop

Photographing a 3,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine and Sky

Bristlecone Pine and Icy Bluff

Bristlecone Pine and Storm

Gnarly Bristlecone Pine

Tall Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine Sapling

Bristlecone Pine Covered with Cones

Purple Pine Cone with Sap

Polished Wood of Bristlecone Pines on Rocky Slope

Magic is the word to describe the feeling you have walking among the oldest trees on Earth!  Bristlecone pines grow in the White Mountains of California on white dolomite (limestone) slopes at 10,000-12,000 feet.  The oldest (unmarked) tree is “Methuselah”, which is 4,844 years old.  Just imagine – this tree was growing when the Pyramids were being built!

The trees are twisted and gnarled by the elements at this high elevation.  Blowing wind and ice sculpts and polishes the wood.  Sometimes almost all of the pine is dead, except for a single strip of bark connecting a root to a living branch.  The trees are named for the bristles or spines on their cones.  The pretty purple cones are often covered in sticky sap. 

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is only open a few months of the year because of snow and ice.  This trip is worth the wait – it is unforgettable.  We felt privileged to visit such an awe-inspiring place.  More info is at:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900

Florida: Naples Botanical Garden

Naples Botanical Garden Entrance

Florida Garden Pathway

Water Garden Waterlilies

Brazilian Garden: Lobster Claw Flower

Brazilian Garden: Waterfall and Pond

Brazilian Garden: Waterfall and Ceramic Mural

Brazilian Garden: Thorny “Dancing Tree”

Caribbean Garden: “Bunny Ears” Cactus

Asian Garden: Screwpine and Palm

Asian Garden: Screwpine Fruit

Asian Garden: Wooden Pavilion

Nature Preserve Boardwalk

The Naples Botanical Garden in southwest Florida is a beautiful place to visit.  The garden underwent a $33 million renovation that was completed in November 2010.  Visitors can now walk along miles of trails through 170 acres of tropical gardens and native habitat.  More info is at:  http://www.naplesgarden.org/gardens.shtml

Florida: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

View of Sarasota Bay

Buddha in Garden

Koi Pond

Plants in Tropical Conservatory

Paphiopedilum Orchid Species

Cacao Tree (where chocolate comes from!)

Red Silk Cotton Tree

Hyacinth Bean

Stained Glass Spoonbill at Garden Pavilion

Billbergia Bromeliad Species

Dendrobium Orchid Species

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to visit in Sarasota, Florida.  The Selby mansion sits on 14 acres fronting Sarasota Bay.  Highlights of the garden include a Tropical Conservatory with thousands of orchids, bamboo and banyan groves, tropical fruit garden, mangrove forest, and koi pond.  The oldest recorded koi fish “Hanako” died at the age of 226 on July 7, 1977, in Japan.  She was a beautiful scarlet color, and her name translated to “flower girl”.  The typical koi fish lives 25-35 years.  More info is at:  http://www.selby.org/

Our Undersea Illusion Reef Garden

Reef Garden View Overall

Reef Garden View of Left Side

Reef Garden View of Right Side

Reef Garden View with Starfish

Reef Garden View with Lobster

Reef Garden View with Big Shell

Reef Garden View with Cactus

Reef Garden View with Abalone Shell

Reef Garden View with Blooming Bromeliad

Reef Garden View with Blooming Bromeliad

Reef Garden View with Fish

Reef Garden View with Fish

Reef Garden View with Swordfish and Pseudorhipsalis Cactus

Reef Garden View with Swordfish and Pseudorhipsalis Cactus

We recently created an Undersea Illusion Reef Garden outside our back door.  It seems appropriate since we live only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean here in Florida.  We were inspired by a Reef Garden at Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce.  The idea is to use plants and objects in the Reef Garden that remind you of marine life at a coral reef under the sea.  We planted dozens of types of plants, including succulents, aloes, euphorbias, cactus, and bromeliads.  Scattered among the plants are decorative seashells, crabs, and fish.  For “mulch” we used fossilized seashells (available as Flori-Stone from Home Depot or select garden nurseries).  Undersea succulent gardens have been featured nationally at flower shows in San Diego and Philadelphia.  We love our Undersea Illusion Reef Garden – it is one of our favorites!  Another post on our Reef Garden is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/starfish-flower/

UPDATE:  The last photograph of the Pseudorhipsalis cactus will be published in the Romanian gardening magazine Casa si gradina  in December 2015.

Sea Grapes are Delicious!

Sea Grape Tree

Sea Grape Tree

Great Egret on Sea Grapes

Great Egret on Sea Grapes

Close-up of Back Lit Sea Grape Leaf

Close-up of Back Lit Sea Grape Leaf

Sea Grape Jelly

Sea Grape Leaf Turtle

Sea Grape Leaf Turtle

Sea grapes are growing quickly now in Florida.  In late summer and early Fall the fruit ripens and turns purple.  Grapes can then be eaten raw, or used to make jelly or wine.  A recipe for sea grape jelly is at:  https://www.visitsarasota.com/blog/authentic-florida-sarasota-sea-grape-jelly

Tourists in the 1930s used the sea grape’s thick leathery leaves to write postcards.  Today people use the fallen leaves for art, plates, wreaths, or even to make dresses for a fashion show!  This native plant is so important for beach stabilization and wildlife that it is protected by law.

McKee Gardens: Lotus Flowers

Lotus Flower Close-up

Lotus Flower and Bud

Lotus Petals on Leaf Pad

Lotus flowers are in full bloom at McKee Gardens.  In many cultures the flower is a symbol of divine beauty, purity, and enlightenment.

Mount Lassen: World’s Longest Pine Cones!

Sugar Pine Cone

Lassen Trail to Pines

Sugar pines at Mount Lassen have the longest cones in the world – up to 2 feet long!  Sugar pines grow in the mountains of California and Oregon.  The trees were named for their sweet resin.

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