New Owl Alley Aviaries Open

Thanks to grants from the Leslie L. Alexander Foundation and the The Batchelor Foundation, as well as contributions from many generous donors from our 2023 Summer Appeal letter, the Owl Alley at Flamingo Gardens’ Bird of Prey Center has been completely rebuilt and is now open once again.

The new Owl Alley features four wood and wire aviaries, partially covered with a tin roof, and a covered walkway connecting to the Hawk Walk, recently rebuilt thanks to a grant from the Freed Family Foundation.

The new aviaries are home to house barn owls, great horned owls, barred owls, and screech owls. Each aviary is outfitted with new nesting boxes and perches. New signage is in the works. We greatly appreciate the support of the Leslie L. Alexander Foundation and The Batchelor Foundation for their generous gifts, and the many others that donated to the campaign, as do the owls!

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. 

10 Everglades Animals Threatened By Climate Change

Biologists are becoming more and more concerned that global climate change will drastically reduce biodiversity. Some biologists estimate that up to 35% of animals and plants could become extinct in the wild by 2050 due to global climate change- less than 30 years! 

2020 World Wildlife Federation report claims that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles have experienced a 68% decrease since 1970 and freshwater species have declined as much as 84% already. (1)

South Florida and the Everglades is particularly susceptible to the effects of global warming and sea-level rise. Everglades plants and animals will be disproportionally affected as the ocean rises and saltwater infiltrates marshes and floods low-lying habitats.

The Center for Biological Diversity report has compiled a list of 350 species found in the United States and its territories which are threatened by climate change. (2) Ten Everglades species standout among the many Florida species included on the list.

Florida panther photo by Mike Levine

Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi)

The Florida panther is one of the most majestic, large felines in the wild, and tragically, it’s the only large feline remaining in the Southeast. Once abundantly found throughout Southeast United States, it is estimated there are fewer than 120 Florida panthers left in the wild. 

Although habitat loss driven by Florida’s burgeoning human population is the greatest threat to Florida panthers, sea-level rise will inundate and eliminate a large portion of the panther’s remaining habitat in Florida’s low-lying Everglades. 

Florida manatee photo by stammphoto

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostrus)

Manatees, sometimes referred to as sea cows, are large, gentle aquatic marine mammals related to elephants that spend much of their time grazing on seagrasses and other vegetation in warm, shallow waters. The current population of manatees in Florida is thought to be between only 1,000 and 3,000.  

The leading cause of death among manatees is boat strikes which kill them or leave lethal propeller wounds on the survivors; but starvation is quickly becoming a major cause of death as well. Sea-level rise and changes in water flow that increase water turbidity threaten the manatees’ main food source- the seagrasses that grow in shallow waters. Increased hurricane intensity and storm surge also impact their food supply, leading to starvation as well as impaired manatee health and reproduction.

Green sea turtle photo by pkphotoscom

Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Much knowledge about sea turtle ecology comes from studies of green sea turtles which migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged but must breathe air, routinely diving for about five minutes and surfacing to breathe for one to three seconds. 

Warming ocean temperatures are leading to mass coral bleaching which damage reef habitats where turtles feed, and changes in ocean currents are altering turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns. Rising sea levels may also inundate nesting beaches and  the increased sand temperatures may lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles.

Ivory tree coral photo courtesy of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Ivory tree coral (Oculina varicosa)

Ivory tree coral is home to various reef fish and considered a keystone species, meaning that its own health indicates the health of the ecosystem around it. These corals have been decimated by destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling, which have killed about 30 percent of the population across its range. 

Today, corals like the ivory tree are among the species most threatened by greenhouse gas pollution. Warming ocean temperatures create frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. 

Key deer photo by Joseph C. Boone

Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)

The range of the key deer originally encompassed all of the lower Florida Keys but is now limited to a stretch of the Florida Keys from Sugarloaf Key to Bahia Honda Key. Despite a hunting ban imposed in 1939, widespread poaching and habitat destruction caused the subspecies to plummet to near-extinction levels by the 1950s. Strict protection measures have brought numbers up to between 300 and 800 today but global warming brings additional threats. 

Rising sea levels and increased storm intensity that may largely eliminate the key deers’ upland habitat on the low-lying Florida Keys. Scientist predict that sea-level rise in this century will virtually eliminate the deers’ upland pine forest and hardwood hammock habitat on Big Pine Key.

Miami blue butterfly photo by J. Glassberg and North American Butterfly Association

Miami blue butterfly (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri)

This small, metallic blue butterfly, native to South Florida, experienced its first major setback in the 1980s when coastal development exploded and Florida’s war on mosquitoes dispersed toxic chemicals throughout the butterflies’ range. Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Florida Keys now houses the only wild population of Miami blues. 

Global warming brings additional risks to this seriously imperiled species as sea-level rise threatens to inundate much of its habitat on low-lying Bahia Honda Key, and stronger hurricanes could devastate the remaining small, isolated population. 

Cape Sable seaside sparrow photo by Lori Oberhofer

Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)

The Cape Sable seaside sparrow isn’t nicknamed the “Goldilocks bird” for nothing: For this little sparrow to survive, its habitat conditions have to be just right. 

As sea level rises, the freshwater marshes inhabited by the sparrow are flooding and turning into mud flats and mangrove-dominated marine waters. Increasingly severe hurricanes due to global warming also threaten this birds’ chances for survival, since hurricanes can kill the tiny birds directly or alter the plant communities they rely on. 

Choctawhatchee beach mouse photo courtesy of

Choctawhatchee beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus Allophrys)

Technically, beach mice are not in the Everglades, but they do inhabit sand dunes along the Florida coasts where they burrow and excavate nests. Their burrows typically have a main hole that acts as a front door and a second hole, or back door, often used to escape predators. 

That back door, however, won’t be much help in the fight against global warming and rising sea levels. With global warming producing rising tide lines and increasing storm surge, dune ecosystems face challenges, as does this tiny mouse.

Lower Keys marsh rabbit photo by Chad Anderson/USFWS

Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri)

The Lower Keys marsh rabbit is an endangered subspecies of marsh rabbit with short, dark brown fur and a grayish-white belly. Marsh rabbits are more aquatic than swamp rabbits, taking to water readily, and are excellent swimmers because their hind legs have less fur and longer nails than typical cottontails. 

Because they live on low-lying islands, marsh rabbits will lose most of their habitat with even moderate levels of sea-level rise. 

Human beings in London photo by VV Shots

Human beings (Homo sapiens)

There are more than 6.8 billion human beings on Earth. 

Health and climate scientists believe that global warming is already responsible for approximately 150,000 deaths each year, and they fear that number may well double by 2030. Global warming also contributes to approximately five million human illnesses every year by the increasing spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea, and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, floods, severe storms, and other weather-related disasters. Studies have also found a direct link between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and respiratory illness and asthma.

Visit the Center for Biological Diversity’s article, 350 Reasons We Need to Get to 350: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming, to read how climate change is putting numerous species’ very existence at risk and what mechanisms are being triggered to make food webs collapse or habitats become less livable for particular animals or plants. You can read the species’ descriptions and look at photos of the species at risk in your home state through their interactive regional map.



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

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:
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:
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. 

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


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

Flamingo Gardens a Spectacular Setting with an Eventful Past

Flamingo Gardens is certainly a beautiful place to visit, but do you know how it came to be? 

The short answer is that Floyd L. and Jane Wray bought 320 acres in the Everglades for just under $5 an acre in 1927, incorporated as Flamingo Groves, and planted 40 acres of citrus orchard. In 1969, upon Jane Wray’s death, 60 acres of the property was preserved and became Flamingo Gardens.

That is just the beginning of a fascinating history.  

There are so many questions that arise, and each leads to more. Answering those questions, and filling in the details, is the really interesting part of the story. 

It all begins 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, Paleo-indians lived here in South Florida, probably with mammoths and bison.  Cypress swamps and hardwood hammocks appeared about 5,000 years ago.  An archeological dig less than a mile west of Flamingo Gardens on Long Key shows civilization 3,000 years ago.  The Tequesta lived here in the southeast.  When the Spanish explorers came in 1510, they found Seminoles living and growing crops on this land.  As time went on, the Seminoles and Miccosukees agreed to move to areas that were set aside for preservation of the environment and to use as a safe haven in which to maintain their customs and traditions.

The Wrays were newcomers when they moved here from the Midwest.  They bought property in the Everglades from Frank and Mittie Chaplin and started a citrus grove.  It’s easy to see in that photo that there wasn’t much here when the first tree was planted on February 22, 1927.  Jane said, “There was no road within four miles.  Roads had to be built, ditches dug, drainage provided.  There was no water, electricity, telephones.  The only toilets were outdoors.  There was no Road 84.  What a thrill to sink our first plow; to plant our first tree!”  That first year, they planted 40 acres of summer oranges.

In 1928, Wray began planting the botanical garden with exotic plants and seeds provided by the government “so that our guests might realize the beauties of this tropical section of South Florida and to further emphasize the wonderful climate.”

Construction began on Flamingo Road in 1929.  By the early 1930s, there were oranges to sell and ship.  As the first elected Chairman of Port Everglades, Wray acquired federal funds to widen the entrance and deepen the basin at the port to allow large freighters and cruise ships to dock at Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami for the first time, and allow convenient shipping of fruit to the north.
Floyd and Jane lived in Hollywood, but they needed a place on the grounds for business and entertaining.  Wray Home was erected in 1933, beautifully situated on one of the high points of the majestic oak hammock.
The gardens at Flamingo Groves were open to visitors 12 months a year.  An early newspaper ad read, “A Cordial Invitation is Extended to Guests and Citizens of Fort Lauderdale to visit Flamingo Groves, Southern Florida’s Newest and Largest Orange Grove Development.”  There was a small sightseeing tram ride with a talk about citrus, the groves, and the Everglades, a pond with 12 flamingos, free-roaming peafowl, the prized botanical collection, and of course, a fruit stand.
Citrus IndustryDue to the increase of groves in the whole area, Wray built the first modern citrus packing and shipping plant on Federal Highway in 1934.  (The photo to the left shows the groves that year.)  By 1939, Wray’s original 40-acre grove had grown to more than 200 acres.  The Flamingo Groves Catalog of 1951 listed 83 different varieties of citrus for sale.  At its peak, Flamingo Groves eventually covered over 2,000 acres (about 3 square miles).
Mr. Wray passed away in 1959; Mrs. Wray in 1969.  Her will endowed the Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation to honor her husband and preserve 60-acres, including the beautiful botanical gardens, to share with the public.  It’s greater purpose was to teach awareness of the beauty and bounty of the Everglades.  
Today Flamingo Gardens is an enduring gift from the Wrays, and a living museum of Florida’s past, a refuge to endangered and injured wildlife, as well as a haven for native and migrating species.  Schoolchildren of all ages arrive daily during the week on field trips, and guests visit from around the world to enjoy the legacy left them by the Wrays and to learn more about the Everglades, environment, animals and history of the area.  

As the end of the year approaches, please keep in mind that donations to help Flamingo Gardens maintain that legacy are tax-deductible.  And, visit the website for more general information. 
There’s so much more to the story, with so many interesting details and tidbits to share as the saga unfolds, so be sure to check back for next month’s blog.
By the way, if you have old photos of Flamingo Gardens or Flamingo Groves in digital form to share, please email them to [email protected] along with the dates and your recollections.  Call the Flamingo Gardens at 954-473-2955 if you have photos that you can bring to be scanned.  We would love to add them to our archives.   

Better Butterfly Basking

Photo by: Pat Birdsong

On a family trip to Flamingo Gardens, my toddler was absolutely delighted by their butterflies. They have a spectacular array of species fluttering around. Pat Birdsong, Volunteer Coordinator, beautifully captured this malachite on the Seminole dombeya, also referred to as the Florida hydrangea or tropical rose hydrangea.

Gardening has been a long time hobby of mine. As a young girl, my older sister and I would grow veggies and flowers in our backyard. My dream has always been to one day do the same with my own children. Now that my daughter really enjoys the outdoors, it couldn’t be a better time to start a vegetable and butterfly garden. Ultimately, we would be cooking and eating healthier (another one of my hobbies, making Paleo recipe’s), be more active, and maybe even enjoy a few butterfly sitings.

How can you attract butterflies?

Nectar-producing flowering plants provide food for butterflies. Host plants provide leaves for laying eggs, camouflage, shelter, reproduction, and larvae food. Seems only right to include both and help mother nature along.

The hydrangea supply the ever desired nectar enjoyed by butterflies and bees. Luckily, I have already planted a few in my front lawn (without even knowing!). I wouldn’t recommend placing them near an entry way or seating area as they attract many other buzzing insects. 

Once thought to be extinct the eumaeus atala depend on the coontie to survive.  They can be spotted in Flamingo Gardens on these host plants. They lay their eggs, and once hatched, the caterpillar eat large amounts of the leaves.

My latest gardening attempts were reserved to small containers on a balcony (since I lived on a second floor apartment). Before you knew it, with just a few flowers and herbs, butterflies were visiting. I once found a caterpillar feasting on my herbs! Somehow, I had unintentionally attracted these beautiful creatures, a pleasant surprise indeed.

Do you want to share your edible leafy greens with these creepy crawlers?

Butterflies can sometimes wander away from flowers, and caterpillars may find their way into your edible garden. First, I’d be sure to place your butterfly garden as far from your vegetable garden as possible. If you do find a caterpillar away from it’s home, you can hand pick and place it back on a host plant. After all, it’s a small price to pay and very few species are considered serious garden pests.

Actually certain butterflies are finding it increasingly difficult to find their habitat. The Monarch Joint Venture, encourages gardeners to create a habitat for the monarchs and their caterpillars. They were first listed as an endangered species in 1983. In 2010, the World Wildlife Fund included the monarch in the “Top 10 To Watch” list of species that needed to still be closely monitored and protected for their survival. Even a small home garden can make a difference.

 Photo by: Pat Birdsong

This monarch caterpillar is feeding on the milkweed plant. It is a necessity for their survival as they eat large amounts of the leaves. Planting milkweed in your garden will not only attract the monarch but help them thrive.

Fall is an agreeable time to get outdoors and start planting in South Florida. I hope you have been inspired to do so as well. Let’s enjoy nature, every bit of it. From the birds and the bees, to the butterflies and even the creepy crawlers.

Here is a helpful site that will get any butterfly garden in Florida on it’s way. Complete with butterfly species and larval food preferences.


With the help of my husband and one friendly neighbor, we built two, 8ft. x 4ft. raised garden beds to start my edible home garden. I placed them near the kitchen window so I can see what’s ripe for the pickin’ while I’m preparing a meal.