Botanical Mystery Solved!

“Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it” - African Proverb

Recently, one of Flamingo Gardens’ outstanding volunteers, Simone Kaplan, solved a botanical mystery for our Horticulture department. Simone is 17 and a student at Archbishop McCarthy High School.

The project was part of this year’s High School Summer Research Internship at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. Simone had already been working on a research project studying Sclerotium rolfsii (a fungal pathogen) in Vanda orchids at Flamingo Gardens, under the mentorship of Dr. Jason Downing and Dr. Nichole Tiernan, research botanists from Fairchild. During a trip to Flamingo Gardens to work with her plants, a chance discussion about our baobab trees between Dr. Downing, Dr. Tiernan and our Director of Horticulture, Chris Maler, led to the impetus for this summer research project.

Using modern molecular techniques (DNA sequencing), Simone was able to identify species for the baobab trees in Flamingo Gardens’ collection. The baobab is a deciduous tree native to Madagascar, mainland Africa, and Australia, of which there are eight species. Some baobabs can store up to 32,000 gallons of water in their trunk to endure harsh drought conditions, and they are among the most long-lived of vascular plants, with specimens dating well over 2,000 years old!

Simone shared that she had to change her DNA extraction procedures to accommodate for the fact that baobab leaves are full of slime! Formally called mucilage, the slime deters animals from eating the leaves. Unfortunately, it also makes DNA extractions rather difficult!

The results of Simone’s research project showed that most of the baobab trees at Flamingo Gardens belong to a few of the species from Madagascar (Adansonia za, Adansonia grandidieri, and Adansonia rubrostipa). These trees are much rarer than the sub-Saharan African baobab species (of which Flamingo Gardens also has specimens). This project is the first step in starting an organized DNA identification program at Fairchild. In most botanical gardens, many plants on display do not have visible and accurate labels. The program will allow gardens to correctly tag unidentified trees from botanical gardens like Flamingo Gardens and Fairchild. Not only is this information useful for visitors wanting to learn more about a particular tree, but it is extremely important for future research and propagation.

Flamingo Gardens is grateful to Simone and the team at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens for their efforts to correctly identify our baobab trees, and we look forward to the discoveries that will be made when she completes her orchid research project as well.

The Host Plants for 12+ Native Butterflies

Pollinators are one of the wildlife populations most impacted by climate change, pesticide use, and habitat loss. Bees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies are all facing unprecedented threats as they struggle to adapt and survive the changing rhythms of weather and the seasons and changes to their natural landscape. After opening the new Butterfly Conservatory at Flamingo Gardens earlier this year, we’ve been flooded with questions regarding which plants are best to attract butterflies. Before we answer that question, it is important to understand the difference between butterfly nectar source plants and butterfly host plants.

Nectar source plants attract adult butterflies by supplying nectar (sugar-rich liquid). These plants vary in size, fragrance, and shape of the flower. All nectar source plants have nectar that is sipped by the butterfly, but the plant is not eaten by them. Most butterflies are attracted to almost all nectar plants, but it is specific butterfly host plants that are truly important for their survival.

Host plants (or larval plants) are plants that the butterfly larvae will eat. Butterfly species lay their eggs on or near the specific host plants that their caterpillar larvae will eat. Each species has a very narrow range of host plants that supply the necessary chemicals required for proper nourishment and growth of the caterpillars. Without enough of these critical host plants, caterpillar larvae will starve and die, threatening the very existence of butterfly species populations.

Here are the necessary host plants needed to attract some of the more desired Broward County native butterflies to your garden:

Host Plants for Monarch and Queen Butterfly
(and Soldier Butterfly, not shown)
Giant Milkweed (Calotropis gigantea)
White Twinevine (Funastrum clausum)
Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

Host Plants for Zebra Longwing, Julia, and Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Corkystem Passionflower (Passiflora suberosa)
Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Lady Margaret Passionflower (Passiflora Lady Margaret)

Host Plants for Orange-barred Sulphur

(and Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly, not shown)
Popcorn Cassia (Senna didymobotrya)
Bahama Cassia (Senna mexicana chapmanii)

Host Plant for Statira Sulphur Butterfly

Red Powderpuff (Calliandra haematocephala)

Host Plant for White Peacock

(and the Phaon Crescent and Common Buckeye Butterfly, not shown)
Frog Fruit, (Phyla nodiflora)

Host Plant for Atala Butterfly

Coontie (Zamia integrifolia)

Host Plant for Malachite Butterfly

Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis)

Host Plants for Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Wild Lime (Zanthoxylum fagara) or any citrus or lime plant

Host Plants for Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) or dill or fennell
A cautionary warning- caterpillars will devour the host plants! You’ll want to provide several of each species of host plant you select so there is plenty of food for the caterpillars to eat. You don’t want the caterpillars to run out of food midway through their growth cycle. Most gardeners don’t like the look of caterpillar-ravaged host plants in their gardens, so plant the host plants interspersed among nectar plants to hide the half-eaten leaves.

Butterfly conservation organizations agree that we can help our native butterfly populations become more resilient by providing the proper host or larval plants in our landscape. With just a little effort and the proper host plants, you can attract these Broward County native butterflies to your yard and help them survive! If you wish to learn more about Florida butterflies and establishing a butterfly garden, the University of Florida has excellent information on Butterfly Gardening in Florida at:

Note: The plants listed in this article can be difficult to find. We recommend looking at nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants and/or butterfly plants. Flamingo Gardens is now propagating these plants in our nursery, but the caterpillars are eating them quicker than we can propagate, so at present we do not have extra host plants to sell. We hope to in the future. Meanwhile we hope this information has been helpful.

Three Plants to Help Save Seven Butterflies

Pollinators are one of the most impacted populations by climate change. Bees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies are all facing unprecedented threats as they struggle to adapt and survive the changing rhythms of weather and the seasons. You can help save seven species of Florida butterflies just by providing these three host plants in your yard!

The native habitats and migration of butterfly populations have been disrupted by extreme and unpredictable weather patterns. Summer in some areas is becoming drier and hotter, and in other areas winter is lasting longer with more storms and blizzards.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Butterfly conservation data shows that increasing temperatures and changing bloom times of flowers are forcing many species of butterflies to alter their migration schedules and spread northwards and uphill in search of cooler more favorable temperatures while in search of their favored nectar sources and larval host plants.

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Nectar plants attract adult butterflies by supplying nectar. These plants vary in size, fragrance, and shape of the flower. All nectar plants have nectar that is sipped by the butterfly, but the plant is not eaten by them.  

Julia Butterfly (Dryas iulia)

Butterfly species choose to lay their eggs on or near plants, (called host or larval plants), that their caterpillar phase will eat. Each species has a very narrow range of host plants that supply the necessary chemicals required for the proper nourishment and growth of the caterpillars.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)

Butterfly conservation organizations agree that we can help our native butterfly populations become more resilient and more responsive to climate change by providing the proper host or larval plants in our landscape.

Gulf Fritillary (Dione vanillae)

Here are three easy-to-grow host plants you can grow in your backyard that will help sustain the seven different Florida native butterflies featured in this article!

1. Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis) is a host plant for both the Monarch and Queen butterfly.

Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

2. Corky stemmed passionflower (Passiflora suberosa) is a host plant for Julia, zebra longwing, and Gulf fritillary butterflies.

Corky stemmed passionflower (Passiflora suberosa)

3. Bahama Cassia (Senna Mexicana chapmanii) is a host plant for Orange-barred sulphur and Cloudless sulphur butterflies.

Bahama Cassia (Sennna Mexicana chapmanii)

When you plant these host plants be sure to place them in a sunny, low-traffic area. Provide some nectar plants nearby that are appropriate to your area. (In South Florida, firebush, pentas, lantana, verbena, plumbago, and blue porterweed are good choices and easily found.) Try to provide some larger plants nearby for shelter and a windbreak, preferable on the north-side of the garden, and provide a water source for drinking. Flat rocks in a sunny place allow a source for butterflies to warm themselves in the sun.

Orange-barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea)

Avoid pesticides in your garden as they will kill your butterflies. Instead, use a strong spray jet of water to rid plants of pests or hand-pick them from the plants, and use mulch to decrease the weeds. Choose natural organic or slow-release fertilizers with a low phosphorous level to help minimize phosphorous runoff to our waterways.

Cloudless Sulphur butterflies (Phoebis sennae)

With just a little effort and these three plants, you can attract these seven Broward County native butterflies to your yard and help them survive! If you wish to learn more about Florida butterflies and establishing a Butterfly Garden, the University of Florida has excellent information on Butterfly Gardening in Florida, here.

Note: The three plants listed in this article can be difficult to find. We recommend looking at nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants and/or butterfly plants. Flamingo Gardens is now propagating these plants in our nursery, and we hope to have these and other essential butterfly host plants for sale in the Gift Shop by the weekend. 

Beauty Of Orchids

You probably have been given or purchased an orchid- most likely a Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, or Cattleya. These are just three of the most popular genera of the orchids in cultivation today.

[Cattleya violacea coerulea by Tom Kuligowski]

The size and diversity of the orchid family, Orchidaceae, is nothing short of astounding, with estimates of 800 genera, 30,000 naturally occurring species and more than 100,000 hybrids. Orchids grow on every continent and every habitat except the major deserts and arctic circles. Many orchids grow in subtropical areas of the world and many of those will grow well in South Florida.

[Dendrobium superbum photo by Tom Kuligowski]

Orchids can be epiphytes (which grow attached to other plants, also known as “air plants”), terrestrials (grow on land), lithophytes (grow on rocks), or saprophytes (grow on dead organic matter). About 75% of all orchids are epiphytes and can be found growing on trees.

There are two groups of epiphytic orchids based on stem structure and growth habit- sympodial and monopodial.

[Sympodial orchid, Dendrobium atroviolaceum photo by Tom Kuligowski]

Sympodial orchids 

Sympodial orchids have a horizontal growth habit and often feature pseudobulbs, a thickened stem from which the leaves emerge that are attached to a basal rhizome. The pseudobulbs store water and food for the orchid, which allows the plant to go for prolonged periods without water. Examples of sympodial orchids include Cattleya, Dendrobium, and Oncidium orchids. In general, these types of orchids require less watering as they can store water in their pseudobulbs.

[Cattleya amethystoglossa photo by Tom Kuligowski]


Cattleyas are a genus of Orchidaceae native to much of South America. They are among the most popular orchids grown. Cattleyas come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes and have very showy flowers. Cattleyas are epiphytes which grow on trees or rocks. Cattleyas generally prefer humid environments and like to dry out between watering. Most important for Cattleya growth is bright, indirect light. The leaves should be medium green in color when the light levels are optimal. They tolerate temperatures between 60 and 90 F. Cattleyas like to be fertilized when in active growth, that is when you see new root tips.

[Dendrobium lasianthera photo by Tom Kuligowski]


Dendrobium orchids are a popular, complex, and extremely large genus from the Old World. Some varieties grow in the mountainous Himalayas while others grow in lowland tropical forests. Some varieties even thrive in the Australian desert.  Many of the subtropical Dendrobiums have beautiful flowers which are also long lasting, but because it is such a large genus group, no one culture works for all. 

[Oncidium sphacelatum photo by Tom Kuligowski]


Oncidiums can be found anywhere from sea level in the tropics to the high elevations of the Andes. The genus is not only one of the largest and most popular cultivated orchid genera, but also a collection of considerably distinct species with varying light, water, and humidity needs. Oncidiums usually produce long, branched, many-flowered, erect to arching inflorescences bearing small to large flowers often in colors from yellow to brown, rarely of uniform color but usually marked or blotched.

[Monopodial orchid Vanda Fulford’s Gold 2 photo by Tom Kuligowski]

Monopodial orchids 

Monopodial orchids grow upright or vertically. They feature side shoots, which likewise grow upright. Unlike sympodial orchids, this type of epiphyte does not have pseudobulbs for nutrient storage and therefore most monopodial orchids have thicker or longer roots to retain moisture. Vanda, Phalaenopsis, and Paphiopedilum are just three of the most common monopodial orchids. Usually, these types of orchids require more humidity and more frequent watering.

[Vanda Princess Mikasa photo by Tom Kuligowski]


Vandas are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and the Pacific where they can be found hanging from trees or from cracks in cliffs and other rocky locations.  In South Florida these plants will grow best outdoors in bright filtered sunlight. Vandas require high humidity and should be watered daily. In the heat of the summer, they can use multiple waterings a day. Vandas can be mounted on a tree, such as a palm tree, grown in a wooden basket, or mounted on a wire. 

[Phalaenopsis Fuller’s 3545 photo by Tom Kuligowski]


The majority of Phalaenopsis are native to Indonesia and the Philippines. They naturally grow in the tropical forest attached to trees and in crevices; therefore, they like low, indirect light, warm temperatures, and high humidity. Phalaenopsis, commonly called the moth orchid due to their flat flower petals resembling moth wings, are admired for their beautiful flowers and are the most widely grown orchid genera. In fact, they account for a staggering 75 percent of all orchid plant sales. These orchids are among the easiest orchids to grow, whether in greenhouses, on windowsills, or mounted on your palm trees. Blossoms on a single stem can last for months.

[Paphipedilum venustum photo by Tom Kuligowski]


Paphiopedilums are also called slipper orchids because of their unique floral pouch reminiscent of a lady’s shoe. They are semi-terrestrial orchids that can be found growing on the humus rich floor in their native jungle habitats of the Philippines and New Guinea to the high hills of northern India. Paphiopedilums come from the jungle, so they expect a tropical environment with plenty of moisture, humidity, and bright shade. Their care is like African violets and are a bit fussier than other orchids, preferring a temperature range between 60F-80F with a humidity level of 40-50 percent. They require watering about once per week. But like all orchids, Paphiopedilums do not tolerate soggy roots, so make sure they’re not sitting in excess water after watering.

Explore the beauty and diversity of orchids at Flamingo Gardens’ breathtaking exhibit, Beauty Of Orchids, on display March 19 to May 8, 2022. Over 1,000 live orchids in 10 displays created by staff and the Orchidteers volunteer group are set among the lush tropical setting of Flamingo Gardens and feature the images of award-winning orchid photographer, Tom Kuligowski.

Inside the Gallery you will enjoy an exhibit of beautiful orchid photographs selected from participants in Flamingo Gardens’ 11th Annual Photo Contest.  

On weekends, exit the Tram at the Wetlands Walkway to hear “Native Orchid Music” by Juraj Kojs, based upon the DNA sequence of various Florida native orchids. Each weekend will also include orchid classes, tours, and demonstrations, as well as orchids for sale from select vendors. Check online for the schedule of classes and special programming at:

Beauty of Orchids opens the weekend of the Exotic Plant Festival & Bonsai Show, March 19 & 20, and will remain on display during the 40th International Orchid & Bromeliad Show, April 16 & 17, through Mother’s Day, May 8, 2022.

Timed Online Tickets are recommended on weekends.  Beauty of Orchids exhibit is included in your Flamingo Gardens’ admission of $21.95 for ages 12+, $15.95 for ages 3-11, Flamingo Gardens’ members and children 2 and younger are free.  Narrated tram tour included.

The Illusive Ghost Orchid And Other Endangered Florida Orchids

Environmental groups are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the rare ghost orchid under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and officially designate its habitat in southern Florida as critical to its recovery.

[The Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax Lindenii, photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

The illusive ghost orchid, Dendrophylax Lindenii, faces mounting threats in Florida from poaching, loss of habitat, and climate change, and needs federal protection according to a petition filed recently by the Institute for Regional Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the National Parks Conservation Association. The conservation groups estimate there are only about 1,500 ghost orchids remaining in Florida where their population is down by 90%. 

If so designated, the ghost orchid would be the first Florida native orchid to be federally listed as endangered or threatened.

[Prosthechea cochleata photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

Most Florida native orchid species are already state-listed as threatened or endangered and are illegal to collect in the wild. There are approximately 100 Florida native orchids genera, but only 11 are found in Broward County. Conservationists fear all Florida native orchids face the possibility of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change and poaching, if conservation and recovery plans are not instituted. 

[Prosthechea cochleata var. alba photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

Flamingo Gardens, along with the help of the Flamingo Gardens Orchidteer volunteer group, has been working hard to establish colonies of native orchids throughout the hardwood hammocks and wetland areas of the Gardens. The Orchidteers and staff have mounted more than twelve hundred plants of various native orchid species such as the night fragrant Epidendrum nocturnum; the Florida butterfly orchid Encyclia tampensis; the Florida silver dollar orchid Prosthechea boothiana; and Sacoila lanceolata, commonly known as the leafless beaked orchid. We have partnered with Pine Island Jog Environmental Center on the Florida Native Orchid Revitalization Area (FLORA) project (part of the Million Orchid Project) to help enhance and restore native orchid populations at Flamingo Gardens. 

[Encyclia tampensis photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

With the help of the Orchidteers volunteer group, Flamingo Gardens’ native orchid conservation programs ensure the continuation of native orchid species in the gardens; and orchid educational programs help instill a deeper love and appreciation for orchids for all those who visit. Under the watchful eyes of the Orchidteers, orchids are tagged and logged at installation, providing a detailed reference summary as the collection evolves.

[Prosthechea boothiana photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

You can learn more about Florida native orchids and Flamingo Gardens’ conservation efforts at the upcoming Beauty of Orchids exhibit from March 19 to May 9, 2022. The exhibit will feature over one thousand orchids in bloom in floral displays throughout the Gardens alongside the orchid photographs of Tom Kuligowski. Weekly orchid classes, orchid sales, and tours will accompany the exhibit. Visit for more information and schedule.

[Prosthechea boothiana photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

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: 

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


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,
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

Creating a Hummingbird Habitat in Your Backyard

Hummingbirds are beautiful and fascinating creatures. With their bright colors, quickness in flight and amazing acrobatic abilities, these tiny birds are often viewed as resplendent jewels and a welcome addition to any garden. 


Florida Hummingbirds

In Florida, there is only one species of hummingbird native to the state, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, and most others only appear accidentally as they migrate south for the winter. The appearance of hummingbirds has decreased in recent years, at least in part due to their natural habitat diminishing thanks to urban growth and land development. This can make attracting hummingbirds to a garden quite difficult, and some might even consider it an art form. 

Providing Nectar to Attract Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds have a fast metabolism and their flight patterns and habits require the use of a lot of energy. They need a constant supply of food, so one of the primary ways in which gardeners are successful in attracting them is by providing nectar. The hummingbirds gravitates toward a garden filled with vibrant red and orange colored flowers. The best flowers for attracting hummingbirds often have tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers and a long blooming season. The firebush, firecracker plant, coral honeysuckle, snapdragon and Mexican sunflower are excellent choices.  

A Continuous Blooming Season

Regardless of which varieties of flowers a homeowner selects for a backyard hummingbird garden, it is important to consider when the flowers will bloom. Ensure that nectar is available to the birds whenever they visit. A gardener who fails to do this will often discover that the birds have left the property and may not return. The most successful garden selection includes varieties of both annuals and perennials which have different growing periods. This will help to ensure steady blossoms from spring to fall and possibly even a year-round nectar source. 

How to Plan Out Your Backyard Hummingbird Garden

When planting a hummingbird garden, it is important to not only offer vibrant colors and tasty nectars, but to create a habitat that offers shade, shelter and security. A tiered garden created by incorporating dwarf trees, flowering bushes and herbs offers hummingbirds places to rest in flight, take shelter from predators and build their nests.
If a yard is small, an existing larger oak tree, trellis, shed, covered deck or other structure can be used to support hanging vines. Pots and window boxes also offer additional places to plant flowering varieties, creating the tiered effect that hummingbirds prefer. Whatever varieties a garden offers, it is always important to carefully consider the distance between plants to allow enough room for their growth and the flight patterns of visiting hummingbirds.

Encouraging Nesting 

For gardeners who hope to encourage visiting hummingbirds to nest in their yard, adding fuzzy plants often helps. The soft plant fibers of pussy willows, cinnamon ferns and catkin-bearing trees are a preferred material for nest lining for hummingbirds because of the soft and supple qualities that the blooms of these plants offer. Moss and lichen that grow naturally on trees should not be removed in a hummingbird garden, as they are important materials used to camouflage nests, eggs and baby birds. 

Cleanliness- An Essential Component

Hummingbirds are quite fastidious about their environment, and they prefer an area that is clean and well maintained. To attract them, gardens must be properly cared for. Prune bushes and shrubs regularly, remove dead leaves, never allow overgrowth and watch for the appearance of fungus or mold. Keep the garden properly watered using a mister which doubles as a bath for birds on the fly. 

Organic Gardening Practices

When maintaining a hummingbird habitat, it is important to remember that this species of bird is somewhat fragile, and they benefit greatly from organic gardening practices. The use of pesticides and insecticides near hummingbirds exposes them to potentially deadly toxins and eliminates an important part of their diet, the spiders and small insects that they feed on for protein. 
Simple organic solutions for controlling damaging pests in a garden include starting with healthy plants, controlling the saturation of soil, hosing off the leaves, hand picking aphids from bushes and pruning dead leaves and decaying plant life. It is also a good idea to research the soil in an area in advance of starting a garden to ensure proper pH levels and composition for the flowers being planted there. Use organic fertilizer or compost to supplement, as appropriate.
Hummingbirds are beautiful, exotic creatures that enhance gardens. They also play a vital role in supporting native plant life by acting as pollinators. Attracting them requires patience and persistence, but once a hummingbird finds your garden, they will often return frequently and provide immense enjoyment for the entire family. 
If you are searching for ideas for your own hummingbird backyard oasis or simply want to visit these beautiful birds and enjoy watching them in flight, we welcome you to view our botanical collection at Flamingo Gardens. Our seasonal visitors include several different species of hummingbirds including the majestic Ruby Throat Hummingbird. 
Our gardens include over 3,000 species of beautiful wildflowers, flowering plants, trees and bushes in a serene setting, perfect for the entire family to enjoy. Spend a day with us to learn more about the hummingbird and many of Florida’s other amazing native wildlife and plant life. You are certain to gain a new appreciation for these amazing creatures and leave feeling inspired to create your own hummingbird backyard habitat. 

About the Author

Jonathan Leger is a sponsored member of the Garden Writer’s Association and a gardening enthusiast. He runs a small site dedicated to the history, education and care of a variety of roses at