Flamingo Gardens’ Aviary Celebrates 30 Years!

Flamingo Gardens is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of our Free-flight Aviary which is home to permanently injured and non-releasable native wading birds and features the five unique ecosystems of Florida.

Aviary Construction 1990, Flamingo Gardens Archive

When Flamingo Gardens’ Free-flight Aviary opened in September of 1991, it was one of the first displays of its kind, giving a home to permanently injured Florida native wildlife and allowing visitors to experience them up close in a naturalistic setting. It took almost two years to construct, and originally contained only a couple dozen birds, representing nine bird species at the grand opening.

Aviary Opening 1991, Flamingo Gardens Archive

The Aviary was envisioned to be a living teaching museum representing the five unique ecosystems of Florida: coastal prairie, mangrove swamp, cypress forest, subtropical hardwood hammock, and sawgrass prairie. Plants were selected to be native to the ecosystem represented. Among the plants are bald cypress, gumbo limbo, pond apple trees, sea oats, and even mangroves.

Aviary Opening September 1991, Flamingo Gardens Archive

Today the Aviary boasts over 250 birds, representing 46 native species with the distinction of being the largest collection of Florida native wading birds in the state. The trees and plants are mature and the birds look much as they would in their natural settings in the Everglades.

Great Blue Heron in Aviary Mangroves by Lorenzo Cassina, 2013

Each spring visitors can experience the mating and nesting rituals of the birds, as nearly 100 baby birds on average are born each year in the Aviary. The babies are left in the care of the parents until they can fly, where upon they are released into the wild. In the last 30 years the birds in the Aviary have successfully bred over 3,000 birds which have been released back into the wild. 

Juvenile Green Herons in Aviary 2011, Flamingo Gardens Archive

Thanks to a grant from The Batchelor Foundation, the Aviary has recently been given a new facelift. Most noticeable is the new open-air Aviary entrance, but improvements also include a thorough cleaning and painting of the steel structural columns, and de-mucking of the ponds and waterways. 

New Aviary Entrance, 2021

Stop by and visit the newly refreshed Aviary as we celebrate its 30 years of enjoyment to visitors of Flamingo Gardens, but more importantly to the thousands of birds that have called it home over the decades!

Brown Pelicans in Aviary by Lorenzo Cassina, 2021

William Rolle – Volunteer Of The Month

Our Volunteer of the Month for September is William Rolle, nominated by our Maintenance Dept.
William started out as a guide in our Aviary in March, where he was much loved by our guests. He enjoys giving tours to our visitors and educating them on the Everglades and the birds that call it home. William recently began volunteering in the Animal Care department after advocating for himself to take on additional responsibility, and has proven himself an incredibly hard worker. William is courteous and helpful, and goes out of his way to make sure that our guests have the best experience while visiting Flamingo Gardens. Look out for William on Saturday mornings assisting our Animal Care department with diets and cleaning. Thank you William!

Beneficial Insects for the Garden


There are approximately 1 million described species of insects in the world and it is believed that there are at least 4 million more species that have yet to be named. Insects represent three-fourths of all described animal species on the planet. Even more than that, there are believed to be an estimated 10 quintillion individual living insects, making them the largest animal population on the planet!

Many insects can be pests, whether they are bed bugs or crop destroyers, but not all insects are bad. In fact, there are quite a few that are beneficial to the environment.

There are some insects that can be particularly beneficial at keeping harmful insects under control. Predatory bugs will hunt other invertebrates which can help keep plants safe from non-beneficial bugs.

Assassin bug (photo credit: www.insectpod.com)
Assassin bugs are one of these predatory bugs. They kill their prey by injecting it with a toxin that dissolves the victim’s tissue which it then sucks up with its proboscis.
Praying Mantis (photo credit: Lorenzo Cassina)
Praying Mantis are not picky eaters and will eat just about any other non-poisonous bug, which can be very beneficial to gardeners suffering plant damage from pests.
Dragonfly (photo credit: cff2.earth.com)
Dragonflies and damselflies are also predatory as both the nymph and the adult eat other insects and are particularly important to reducing mosquito and mosquito larvae populations. Damselflies are smaller and have slimmer bodies than dragonflies, and fold their wings up and along their body when at rest, unlike dragonflies which hold their wings out flat and away from the body.
Pirate bug (photo credit: Ho Jung Yoo)
The minute pirate bug is an easily overlooked beneficial insect. They feed greedily on small organisms such as leafhoppers, aphids, thrips, and mites. They naturally occur in crops and are highly attracted to flowers where they also feed on pollen.
Ladybugs (photo credit: Lorenzo Cassina)
Ladybugs are one of the more popular beneficial insects. Ladybugs, aka lady beetles, are widely used to keep aphids under control.. They will also eat mites, scale insects, mealybugs, whiteflies, small caterpillars, beetle grubs, and all types of insect eggs.
Honey bee (photo credit: Chris Mahler)
Honey Bees are one of the most beneficial insects. Honey bees are essential to the proper pollination of consumable foods. Without honey bees, foods such as watermelon, cucumbers, blueberries, and a large variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts would not be pollinated. Without pollination, approximately one-third of our food crops would be decreased. In addition, honey sales contribute millions of dollars of revenue to the economy each year.
Zebra longwing butterfly (photo credit: Lorenzo Cassina)
Many other insects also serve as pollinators. Most people know that in addition to honey bees, butterflies and moths are also pollinators, but several species of ants, beetles, and even some wasps are pollinators as well.
Echinacea, or coneflowers (photo credit: Lorenzo Cassina)
Like many other species of birds and animals, beneficial insects are threatened with declining habitat, pollution, and use of pesticides. You can help protect beneficial insects by minimizing your use of pesticides and attract them to your yard by providing plants which attract these insects. Such plants include alfalfa, cilantro, cosmos, dandelions, dill, echinacea, fennel, marigold, milkweed, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, rose, rudbeckia, sunflowers, wildflowers, yarrow, and zinnia to name just a few.
To learn more about insects, visit the new Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! exhibit on display in the Gallery at Flamingo Gardens between May 29 and September 6, 2021. Gallery hours are 10am to 4:00pm seven days a week. 

Top 12 Orchids in Bloom at Flamingo Gardens

In honor of the upcoming International Orchid and Bromeliad Show at Flamingo Gardens, we thought we’d highlight 12 of our favorite orchids now in bloom. You can take a self-guided walking tour to see these beauties up-close and in person. Ask for the Orchid Tour map at the ticket counter.

12. Phalaenopsis DeLeon’s White is one of the most popular Phalaenopsis orchids on the market because of their tolerance of low-level light conditions and for the long sleek spikes of large white petals which resemble butterflies and last for weeks, even months. *This orchid can be seen in the large container in the middle island of the Arboretum.

11. Phalaenopsis Timothy Christopher is a miniature Phal that is a hybrid cross of Phalaenopsis Cassandra x Phalaenopsis aphrodite and blooms in abundance. *This orchid can be seen on the white silk floss tree trunk just after the middle island.

10. Oncidium sphacalatum is a species orchid of Mexico and Central America. It is known as the Golden Shower Orchid due to its bright yellow flowers on abundant long spikes that grow up to 3 feet long. The showy blooms last for weeks. *This orchid can be seen to the left looking back at the Toucan cage.

9. Dendrobium Flamingo Garden has large flowers of flashy pink and purple undertones, just as you’d expect of our namesake, with an extended lip and great patterning. *This orchid can be seen straight ahead when you looking back at the Toucan cage.

8. Dendrobium lindleyi is a small species orchid of Thailand and much of southeast Asia notable for its showy sprays of yellow buttercup flowers. *This orchid can be seen on the west side of the Palm tree at the intersection of the Service Road and Tram Trail, just opposite the Wedding Gazebo.

7. Howeara Lava Burst ‘Puanani’ is a miniature variety Oncidinae hybrid that is famous for its small, flaming red flowers that emerge twice a year and last for weeks. It is a cross of Howeara Mini-Primi x Rodriguezia secunda. *This Oncidium orchid can be seen on the palm tree to the right of the ramp as you enter the garden from the gift shop.

6. Oncidium Sweet Sugar ‘Lemon Drop’ is distinguished by its bright pure-yellow flowers of medium size, but beautifully arranged on arching racemes which remain in bloom for weeks. It is a hybrid of Aloha Iwanaga x varicosum. *This Oncidium orchid can be seen on the palm tree to the left of the ramp as you enter the garden from the gift shop.

5. Broughtonia sanguinea is a species orchid native to Jamaica. It is outstanding for the long flower spikes that grow up to 2 feet long above its foliage, tipped with clusters of bright red flowers. *This orchid can be seen on the palms on the right side of the large Cluster Fig tree.

4. Gongora claviodora is a species orchid found in Nicaragua south to Columbia that is notable for its pendulous clusters of dark red flowers that smell of cloves. *This orchid can be seen hanging in the basket from the Live Oak tree near the Bromeliad Garden.

3. Guarianthe skinneri is a species orchid that ranges from southern Mexico to Costa Rica where it is the national flower and plays a role in local folk traditions. It is outstanding for its spectacular display of colorful blossoms covering the plant. *This orchid can be seen on the east side of the Palm tree at the intersection of the Service Road and Tram Trail, opposite the Wedding Gazebo.

2. Dendrobium anosmum superbum is a species orchid native to Southeast Asia. Species Orchids are those species that occur naturally in nature and have not been hybridized. This Dendrobium, while short-lived, is a showstopper when cascades of lavender blooms appear on the bare canes. New leafy canes will grow and lose their leaves the following year just before new blooms appear. *This Orchid can be seen at the end of the ramp to the left.

1. Vanda Pachara Delight ‘Isabella’ is beloved for its stunning deep blue-violet flowers which blooms multiple times throughout the year and last for weeks at a time. This hybrid is a cross of V. Karulea x V. Gordon Dillion. *This Vanda orchid can be seen to the right in the middle of the ramp from the gift shop.

Photos by Lorenzo Cassina. Follow Lorenzo’s work at: www.instagram.com/cassinaphotography 

Top 12 Exotic Blooms at Flamingo Gardens

March is an exciting month at Flamingo Gardens as the plants start to emerge from their winter dormancy and some of the most interesting blooms appear on our tropical plants. Flamingo Gardens is known for our giant trees, live oaks, and Everglades’ plant species, but here are some unusual exotic blooms from plants around the globe you’ll want to see during your spring visit.

12. Yellow Saraca, Saraca chinensis

Indigenous to India, Burma and Malaya, this tree is known for its profusion of rich yellow clusters of numerous long-tubed flowers which each open out into four oval lobes. According to legend, the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni, was born under this tree and as such is worshipped by Buddhists. Hindus revere it as the symbol of love. Both Buddhists and Hindus use the blossoms or religious offerings. The Red Saraca, Saraca declinata, is equally showy. *Look for this small flowering tree across from the Bear Exhibit.

11. Weeping Bottlebrush, Callistemon viminalis

This distinctive tropical plant is named for its bright red weeping flower spikes that are reminiscent of a brush used to wash bottles. Native to New South Wales and Western Australia  the bottlebrush is a common plant often sold as a shrub but can grow as a tree up to 25 feet in height. *You can find specimens of this small tree along the tram trail next across from the Wray Home.

10. Flowering Pandanus, Freycinetia cumingiana   

This flowering shrub is native to rainforests in the Philippine Islands. It typically grows to 3’ tall as a scrambling shrub when unsupported but may grow to 7’ tall or more as a vine when its woody stems are able to attach to and climb upon adjacent upright structures. Its unusual flowers are used in the cut flower market.  *Located west of the bridge in the Arboretum near the Reflection Pond. 

9. Narrow-leaved Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia juncea

Similar to the common Bird of Paradise commonly found in gardens and florist shops throughout Florida, this variety does not have a broad leaf, but has rush-like cylindrical leaves instead. Like its more common counterpart, the Narrow-leaved Bird of Paradise is also native to South Africa and is threatened in its native habitat of South Africa due to quarrying and illegal collecting in the horticultural trade. *This unusual species of Bird of Paradise can be found in the center of the cycad garden.

8. Flame of the Forest, Butea monosperma

This flowering tree is native to India and Southeastern Asia. The large beak-shaped red-orange flowers appear in spring and give rise to its other common name Parrot Tree. In Sanskrit, the flower is extensively used as a symbol for the arrival of spring and the color of love. In Theravada Buddhism, it is said to have been used as the tree to achieve enlightenment, or Bodhi, by Buddha. *Located in our Flowering Tree Garden behind the Bear Exhibit and across from the Wedding Gazebo.

7. Mother of Cocoa, Gliricidia sepium

A native of Mexico and Central America, this tropical tree was used to shade plantation crops such as cocoa and thus given its common name Mother of Cocoa. The flowers are located on the end of branches that have no leaves. These flowers have a bright pink to lilac color that is tinged with white. A pale-yellow spot is usually at the flower’s base. The tree is used extensively in Africa now to stabilize soils against acidification and as forage for cattle, sheep and goats. *Located in our Flowering Tree Garden behind the Bear Exhibit.

6. Ice Blue Calathea,  Calathea burle-marxii

Native to southeastern Brazil and named in honor of Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, this calathea has frilly pinecone-shaped flowers below the leaves at the stem tips. The small, white and pale purple tubular flowers are nestled between the pale blue or white floral bracts on the inflorescences. The inflorescences are very long-lasting, but each individual flower only lasts for a day. *Look for this gem at the end of the boardwalk from the Gift Shop.  Look low, it hides!

5. Indian Clock Vine, Thunbergia mysorensis

This woody tropical vine is native to India where it is also known as Brick and Butter vine. It is also known as lady slipper vine due to the dramatic and very large pendent hanging blossoms which have individual yellow and maroon flowers in a bold curved shape resembling a slipper. Although uncommon in the wild, it is a popular cultivar in gardens due to its showy flowers. *You can find this vine growing on the trellis in the Butterfly Garden, in front of the Tram Station.

4. Pink Shaving Brush Tree, Pseudobombax ellipticum

This deciduous tropical flowering tree from Mexico produces large hot pink flowers in the springtime which resemble a shaving brush. It usually has no leaves at the time of bloom which serves to show off the large and striking flowers. Although not threatened nor endangered, it is one of the strangest looking blooms on a flowering tree. *Located in our Cycad Garden -you can easily see it from the tram.


3. Panama Flame Tree, Brownea macrophylla

This tropical tree is native to central-south America, particularly to the humid thick forests of Colombia and Venezuela. It produces bright flowers on its branches that are loved by pollinators especially hummingbirds. The species is rare in the wild these days but is a popular ornamental tree due to its showy flowers. *Located in our Bromeliad Garden.

2. Jade Vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys

Jade vine is a perennial woody vine native to the Philippines rainforests where it will commonly grow 30-50 feet up tall trees in search of sun. Jade vine is particularly noted for its unique jade colored claw-shaped flowers which bloom in huge, showy, panicles that droop up to 40” long. Almost extinct in the wild due to deforestation, jade vine survives in cultivation in numerous nurseries and gardens across the globe. *Located on the trellis in our Fern Garden.

1. Orchids, Orchidaceae

Okay, we’re cheating just a bit. 

Orchidaceae are a diverse and one of the largest families of flowering plants. Orchidaceae have about 28,000 currently accepted species, distributed in about 763 generaWe can’t possibly name just one favorite orchid in bloom as there are so many at Flamingo Gardens. You’ll just have to wander around and choose your own favorite from the hundreds in bloom! *Look up!  You will find orchids in a great many places throughout Flamingo Gardens. 

Photos by Lorenzo Cassina.

90th Anniversary Celebration

2017 is the
90th Anniversary of Flamingo Groves, the forerunner of Flamingo Gardens. The
founders, Floyd L. and Jane Wray, moved to Florida in 1925.  They were thrilled with their new home and the beauty of South Florida.  He had a good job selling property in Hollywood-by-the-Sea.

Then came 1926.  It was not a good year for South Florida or the Wrays. The real estate boom was
ending, and on September 19, a devastating
hurricane made landfall.

1926 HurricaneYou can only
imagine how the Wrays felt after the storm subsided.  They were grateful they fared the storm better than most. But, with the real estate business
gone, Floyd knew he had to pick himself up and consider his options. He decided
on a venture that would take him in a whole new direction —
citrus. He believed he could make a go of it if he bought inexpensive land in the drained Everglades and grew a new
variety of summer oranges, and he was right.
By the end of 1926, the new plan was in motion. Mittie Meyers Chaplin writing about
her pioneer family noted they
sold three hundred and twenty acres of Everglade land six miles west of Davie and
somewhat higher than sea level than elsewhere to a young man. That
young man was Floyd L. Wray.
Citrus IndustryFlamingo
Groves was incorporated on January 2, 1927. The first bare-root Lu Gim Gong summer-ripening orange tree was
planted in the drained Everglades on February 22.  Forty acres were
planted that first year.
exotic botanical gardens were created with the
help of the Department of Agriculture, which provided
plants and seeds from around the world. 
A flamingo pond was added and peacocks roamed the grounds.  Flamingo Groves became a South Florida show place. Other growers began to plant citrus until
western Davie was almost a continuous citrus grove.

Broward County FL
Wray built retail outlets for his fruit and other citrus-related items, and the first modern packing and shipping plant in Broward County.  He was one of the first elected commissioners that turned Bay Mable Harbor into Port Everglades, a world-class shipping and cruise facility, in only five years.  He
continued to expand the groves and included virtually every variety of
citrus and other fruit trees suited to the climate.  Flamingo Groves covered nearly 2,000
acres at its peak. 
Florida AttractionsAlthough all
the other groves eventually made way to development, Jane Wray had the foresight to create a
foundation to preserve the best 60 acres. Today, visitors from the state, country, and all around the world enjoy the botanical gardens and native wildlife exhibits. The historic Wray Home Museum shares Floyd and Jane’s history and their legacy.    

It all began with that one tree planted so many years ago. Join
us in celebrating the 90th Anniversary at Flamingo Gardens this

More History
The First Tree Was Planted in 1927
Flamingo Groves/Flamingo Gardens: Always a great place to party!
Flamingo Gardens a Spectacular Setting with an Eventful Past


From the desk of MC Flamingo… My Aunt Phyllis is a talker.

From the desk of MC Flamingo…
My Aunt Phyllis is a talker.  She’s the talkingest Flamingo in our entire flamboyance , to use the proper jargon.  How talking is she?  
  • They say if you crossed Aunt Phyllis the flamingo with a centipede, you’d get a Walkie-Talkie.  
  • They also say if you crossed Aunt Phyllis with a shark, you’d have a bird that would talk your head off.
  • They say Aunt Phyllis’ favorite game is Hide and Speak.
Needless to say, she loves her cell phone.  I remember once she was at the doctor’s office to talk about 

possible throat surgery.  She was talking on that phone in the admitting area, in the waiting room, and even ‘shushed’ the doctor until she could finally finish her call.  

She did eventually pay attention, at least long enough to ask the throat doctor, “How will they keep my mouth open during the surgery?”
The doctor replied, “Oh, that part’s easy, we’ll just keep a phone in your hand.”

If you love your cellphone like Aunt Phyllis does, you probably like the newest model, right?  Flamingo Gardens now has a way to let you upgrade “for good.”  That means upgrading for wildlife!

You can donate your old, outdated iPhone, Android, other smartphone or tablet to Flamingo Gardens and know that your old phone is going to support rescue and rehabilitation efforts.  The Flamingo Gardens animals get the benefit, and you get the tax deduction!

That old phone sitting in a drawer, or that phone you’re ready to get rid of, well, it isn’t obsolete or worthless… you can donate your old devices right through our website.

Imagine your old phone doing some good right here, right now… and donating it takes less than a minute… just Click here!

This is called an in-kind donation, and phones aren’t the only thing you can donate. You can also donate old vehicles, stock, bonds, unused gift cards, even property! Aunt Phyllis always gives me gift cards I never use, so I like to donate them to Flamingo Gardens. Like the phones, these get converted to cash and the cash is donated to Flamingo Gardens. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Flamingo Gardens donation page here.  Every season can be a season of giving!

And speaking of seasons:  Ahhhh…. fall.  December is here, and so is cooler weather.  If you missed all the Harvest Fest events in October, you missed a lot of fun.  But no worries, because December is the month of giving, and nowhere will you be more giving of your time than when you’re at our own Flamingo Gardens in December. Check out all the Holiday Fun! Ride the Holiday Express Train to visit Santa and help Mrs. Claus pass out treats to the animals at 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10, 11, 17 & 18. Or come visit the Garden of Lights after dark and see the music and light show on December 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, & 18 from 5-8pm. 

And make sure you check out the new North American River Otter Habitat which is now open!

Okay, time for a quiz, AND a chance to win a prize:
So we already covered the fact that a group of flamingos is called a “flamboyance.”  What is a group of otters called?  A __________ of otters.
Visit our Facebook page and answer all correctly.  One of the right answers at www.facebook.com/flamingogardens.org will get 4 free passes to Flamingo Gardens!
This is MC Flamingo, signing off for Flamingo Gardens!
Flamingo Gardens is a 60 acre Botanical Garden and Everglade Wildlife Sanctuary. The Flamingo Gardens botanical gardens in Fort Lauderdale, (Davie) Florida, features over 3000 species of rare & exotic, tropical, subtropical, and native plants and trees. Flamingo Gardens wildlife sanctuary is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife including alligators, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacocks, and of course… flamingos!​
Flamingo Gardens is owned and operated by the Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation, Inc. which was established in 1969 by Mrs. Wray in honor of her late husband. Her wish to preserve the core property for future generations and emphasize the flora, fauna, and history of the Florida Everglades is the core of Flamingo Gardens’ mission still today.

August Musings of MC Flamingo…

Back when I was still in Flamingo chick school, my 3 favorite months were June, July, and August.  Summer vacation is something everyone loves, right?  When it comes to travel, the birds at Flamingo Gardens spend our summers right here at home, but I hear a lot of birds visit the Canary Islands.  Sharks, of course, enjoy Finland.  And goldfish go ‘round (and ‘round) the globe. ba-dup-bump!
I’ve always thought of August as being like the Sunday of summer, because:

1. You can be lazy if you want… just ask Anne Marie, our newest Florida Panther
photo by Laura Wyatt

2. It’s a great time to stop and smell the roses or to see our water lilies bloom.
photo by Eileen Danielson 
3. Swimming!
    video by www.8shadesofblue.com
And hey, folks, newsflash: It’s FLORIDA.  Come September, the weather is still going to be great, the days are still long and hot, but it’s going to be way cooooler under our green canopy high on this hardwood hammock. 

And September means your chance to do it all, as we birds like to say, on the cheep!  It’s time for $7 Saturdays in September!  September 3, 10, 17, and 24, 2016 admission is only $7 for both adults and children!  Plus $7 specials in the gift shop, and $7 combo meals at the Flamingo Cafe, Garden Grill, and Tropical Marketplace. 
Plus, the famous Flamingo Gardens Narrated Tram Tour is included!   

Now here’s another one for the birds—the Labor Day Native Bird Festival.  Guess what day it’s held on?  That’s right, Labor Day!  
Monday September 5th 2016, you can experience the birds that make Florida home.  Live bird exhibits, birding classes, aviary tours, and special Birds of Prey presentations— with admission HALF-OFF on Labor Day, so you don’t have to work as long to afford to get in.
See how I tied that together?

This is MC Flamingo, signing off for Flamingo Gardens as always with impeccable timing and some skillful rhyming:
Summer seems like a season of infinite fun,
Time to do everything, and see everyone.
There is so much stuff, but the truth is rough,
You learn there’s never really quite time enough.
So with what you choose to see, 
and what you choose to do,
Make today count, make it matter for you.

July Musings from M.C. Flamingo

Some people call it July Fourth, others the Fourth of July.  Some fancy folks call it Independence Day, while most British people don’t call it anything special at all.  But whatever you call it, the day between July 3rd and July 5th is always a lot of fun here at Flamingo Gardens—and we like to get festive with our Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration. 
Photo by Linnea Stewart

This year, there were watermelon and pie eating contests, sack races, spoon races, and lots of tunes from days gone by to help remind folks that Flamingo Gardens has been doing this a long time.  We’ve been hosting picnics and barbeques since our founding as a citrus grove and botanical garden way back in 1927. Get a load of this Flamingo Gardens BBQ picnic from the 1930s.  Love those classic threads!
What do you think Mr. and Mrs. Wray are saying?
A. There’s a lot at STEAK here!
B. Why are you all up in my GRILL?
C. Dear, use your napkin.

Visit our facebook page and tell us your favorite caption at www.facebook.com/flamingogardens.org.  Winner gets 4 passes to Flamingo Gardens.

Now, flamingos are famously NOT complainers, but I got to say that there is one thing that gets a little annoying on July 4th and it’s those birds that never need a comb– Abe & Liberty, the resident Bald Eagles.  They strut around from dawn to dusk acting like it’s their day or something.  Very serious birds.  As Liberty says, “There are no knock-knock jokes about Bald Eagles, because FREEDOM… RINGS!”
Photo by Lorenzo Cassina
July 4th weekend was also the first chance many had to see the newest Flamingo Gardens resident—and she’s a purty one— meet Anne Marie. 
Anne Marie is a female Florida panther—and one look lets you know that the Sunshine State did good back in 1982 by naming these beautiful creatures the official state animal.   Florida panthers are still on the endangered species list, and we’re glad Anne Marie has found a home here in our naturalistic sanctuary—Flamingo Gardens only hosts permanently injured big cats which could not otherwise survive in the wild.
Anne Marie has been occupying her habitat alone to allow her to get used to it.  It won’t be long, however, until she’ll be joined by our 2 male Florida panthers, Bubba and Osceola. We’ll be monitoring everything in the hopes that everyone gets along.
Here’s a little trivia—Florida panthers lack the ability to roar.  Instead, they make distinctive sounds like chirps, growls, hisses, purrs, and whistles. And once those boy cats get a load of Anne Marie, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that you’ll be hearing authentic Florida Panther whistles real soon. 

We’re sorry if you missed the Old Fashioned Fourth of July, but you’re welcome to stop by anytime!  Another good time is Wet & Wild Weekend, July 16th and 17th.  Cool your jets with 20 foot waterslides and water games, and it’s a HALF-PRICE WEEKEND!  Bring the kids—it won’t be too long until they’re back in school. You’ll have your sanity back, but then everything will be just too darn quiet.

This is MC Flamingo, signing off for Flamingo Gardens as always with impeccable timing and some skillful rhyming:

There’s a Florida panther named Anne Marie,
At Flamingo Gardens– you got to see.
She’s a beautiful cat, in her habitat.
With a stately walk like an aristocrat.
She’s safe and sound, with room to roam.
So welcome Anne Marie, to your brand new home.

MC Flamingo is an author, explorer, poet, rapper, entertainer, emcee and all around celebrity among birds. MC, or just M as his friends call him, spends his days skimming for algae at Flamingo Pond and posing for the lady ‘mingos. At night he composes and writes about his experiences.

Establishing A Wildflower Garden in South Florida

A wildflower garden can be gratifying endeavor for gardeners that prefer an informal or “cottage garden” look, but growing one can be challenging in South Florida. Wildflowers commonly purchased at the big-box retailers act more like annuals here and often die out quickly in our hot and humid summers; that’s usually because they’re not suited for our area. The solution can be in selecting Florida native wildflowers that can withstand our local climate.

Coreopsis is the State Wildflower of Florida.

The Florida Wildflower Foundation defines “Florida native wildflower” as “any flowering herbaceous species that grew wild within the state’s natural ecosystems in the 1560s when Florida’s first botanical records were created.”

Wildflowers have long held great significance in Florida. When Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sighted land in the new world in 1513, he dubbed it La Florida – “land of flowers”. Florida’s indigenous people and early settlers used wildflowers for food and medicinal purposes.

Wildflowers are critical to Florida crop production and agriculture as they serve as food and protection for pollinators like birds and bees as well as for native wildlife.

Native wildflowers are good for the environment as well. They have adapted to local conditions and are more resistant to pest problems, thereby reducing the need for harmful pesticides and helping to reduce harmful toxic runoff. Landscaping with native wildflowers can also eliminate the need for lawn equipment, thereby helping reduce emissions of air pollutants and helping to improve air quality. Most native wildflowers are drought tolerant and have little need for irrigation, reducing water usage as well.

Not all Florida native wildflowers will grow well here in South Florida. Your best option is to find a local nursery that specializes in native plants to find species that grow well in the southern part of the state. These are a just a few of the plants that have performed well at Flamingo Gardens in our Florida Wildflower Garden:

Rudbeckia hirta is commonly known as Black-eyed Susan or Coneflowers. It is found throughout Florida, but the variety Rudbeckia hirta var. floridan is endemic to Central and South Florida. It is a perennial that grows 12-24” tall with deep yellow ray flowers with dark brown spherical centers. It blooms spring through fall, and after flowering and seed maturation, the plants die. Black-eyed Susan is an important component in erosion control and offers protection and food to several song and game birds. It is an excellent source of nectar for butterflies and a larval host to some moths.

Rudbeckia hirta is commonly known as Black-eyed Susan.

Gaillardia pulchella, also known as Blanketflower, Firewheel, or Indian Blanket, occurs throughout Florida coastal areas. It is an annual or short-lived perennial that grows 12-18” tall in natural conditions. In a garden it may grow twice the size. It’s bright colored flowers, drought tolerance, and long blooming season make it a popular garden plant. Flowers can vary greatly, but are typically bi-colored with inner bands of red surrounded  by a yellow outer band. It’s grayish green leaves are linear or lance shaped and quite hairy. Blanketflowers are excellent nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. It is an aggressive re-seeder, especially in loamy soils, and its tough demeanor makes it an ideal plant for erosion control in sandy, sunny spots where little else grows.
Solidago sempervirens, Seaside Goldenrod, is the most commercially available of the four native Goldenrods of Florida. Its showy masses of golden-yellow tubular blooms are commonly found on dunes, brackish marshes and sandy soils along the coast. Its 4’-6’ tall stems bloom from spring through fall here in South Florida. Goldenrod is an excellent nectar plant for butterflies and other pollinators, and attracts birds in search of insects. 
Passiflora suberosa or Corky Stem Passion Flower
Passiflora suberosa, is a species of Passion Flower native in South Florida commonly known as Corky Stem Passion Flower because of the cork-like texture of older stems. It is a low climbing herbaceous vine that gets tiny greenish to whitish flowers. Corky Stem Passion Flower is one of the best larval food plants for several butterflies in South Florida. The state butterfly Zebra Heliconian (Zebra Longwing), Gulf Fritillary, and Julia Cryas butterflies lay eggs on the passion vine, which provides food for the caterpillar. Its purple-black berries are food for birds and small animals. 
Salvia coccinea, Scarlet Salvia, Red Salvia, or Tropical Sage, is the most commonly available of the three native Salvias found in Florida, and is found throughout the state with the exception of the Keys. Despite the common name of Red or Scarlet Salvia, cultivars also come pink, white, and bicolor. It is a short lived perennial that blooms throughout the year in South Florida and reaches 18 to 36 inches high. Salvia is a great nectar source and attractant for butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators. 
Monarda punctacta, or Spotted Beebalm. Photo by Jack Scheper, Floradata.com
Monarda punctacta, better known as Spotted Beebalm or Spotted Horsemint, is a bushy perennial found in dry sandy soils along roadsides and in open pine flat woods. The flowers grow to 3’ and are creamy white to yellow with purple spots, with showy bracts of lavender to cream. Its lance-shaped leaves are scented like oregano or thyme.Beebalm is perhaps the best Florida wildflower for attracting a wide variety of pollinators. Its showy blooms attract a great many species of butterflies, many native bee species, as well as hummingbirds. 
Coreopsis, is the State Wildflower of Florida and refers to all eleven species native to Florida. Coreopsis leavenworthii, also known as Leavenworth’s Coreopsis, or Tickseed, is the most common species and is found throughout Florida, especially along roadsides, pine flatwoods, and prairies. It is an annual to short-lived perennial. Its daisy-like flowers are bright yellow with a dark brown center held upright upon tall, leafless stems. Coreopsis is a great nectar plant for butterflies and other pollinators.
Glandularia maritima, or Beach Verbena
Glandularia maritima, or Beach verbena, is extremely rare in nature and listed as a state
endangered species. For the most part, it occurs only on the east coast of Florida on beach dunes. This native verbena is well suited for along the coastal areas of Florida, but is now in danger of extinction in the wild. Beach verbena is an extremely tough plant. It is right at home in the salt spray, low-nutrient sands, and full blown sun of the coastal environment and can adapt to a variety of environments. Purple or lavender flowers borne in clusters stand out against the fine-textured foliage. Stems creep along the ground and root to bind the sand together helping prevent wind from blowing it back from the beach. Specimens produce a wonderful floral display and attract the attention of butterflies and other pollinators.  
Helianthus debilis, or Dune Sunflower, is a low-growing, native- a tender herbaceous perennial forb in southern Florida and a reseeding annual throughout central Florida. Sand dune stabilization, wind erosion protection, and beach beautification are the principle conservation uses of the beach sunflower.  Specimens produce a wonderful floral display and  attract the attention of butterflies and other pollinators, including bees. It is a nectar source for many of these insects.The plant’s tight canopy affords protection to a wide range of small wildlife: insects, lizards, and even small birds.The seed of the dune sunflower also provides food for wildlife.
To see these and other Florida native wildflowers, visit the Florida Wildflower Garden at Flamingo Gardens, 3750 S Flamingo Rd, in Davie FL. The Florida Wildflower Garden is sponsored by Flamingo Gardens and the State of Florida and the Florida Wildflower Foundation. More information may be found at www.FlamingoGardens.org.