Naples Botanical Garden

Children's Garden Treehouse.
Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden.
During the upcoming Florida Native Plant Society Conference, one of the Sunday field trips is destined for the blossoming 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden (NBG; 4820 Bayshore Drive; 239-643-7275). This non-profit organization was incorporated in 1994, so staff, members, and visitors are celebrating the Garden’s 20th anniversary this year. In this spirit, NBG is currently building the impressive Eleanor and Nicholas Chabraja Visitor Center to welcome guests starting in fall 2014. Participants in this field trip can expect to pass by exciting, new construction on their way to four main locations: 1) Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, 2) Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden, 3) Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden, and 4) Mary and Stephen Byron Smith Family River of Grass.

Guaiacum sanctum. Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden.
Your journey into the Smith Children’s Garden will begin by walking under a domed ceiling of saw palmettos (Serenoa repens). This Garden truly stands out for both its diversity of native plants and the fun, interactive design that presents them to children and adults alike. Most of the native plants in this whimsical wonderland can be found along the Wild Florida Loop Trail, which begins near spurting water fountains and winds around a rustic tree-house. Search the Duane Repp Hardwood Hammock at the top of the trail for marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides), holywood lignumvitae (Guaiacum sanctum), and white indigoberry (Randia aculeata). The trail slopes down to meet other created habitats, including shell mounds, dry grass prairie, open-water slough, and cypress dome. The last two habitats were created as homage to the Everglades and Corkscrew Swamp, respectively. Each habitat is equipped with play features to get kids up close and personal with plants.

Next up, field trip participants will embark to the Kapnick Caribbean Garden, which spotlights those plants swapped across hemispheres during the Columbian exchange. Botanical specimens native to the Caribbean and tropical Asia are planted side by side around an aquamarine Chattel House. Many visitors are surprised to discover how many Caribbean plants are also native to the Florida Keys. Challenge yourself to count the number of Florida natives in this botanical melting pot. The observant investigator can locate little strongbark (Bourreria cassinifolia), maidenberry (Crossopetalum rhacoma), spicewood (Calyptranthes pallens), and many more mixed in with Caribbean agricultural commodities. Be sure to rest in the hammocks slung between coconut palms after your count is done. Don’t miss the arid garden, which displays the endangered semaphore cactus (Opuntia corallicola) among diverse Caribbean succulents, as you move on.

Gaillardia pulchella. Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden,
Of course, plenty of natives reside in the Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden, which strives to connect Floridians and visitors with nature. Within its expansive Wildflower Meadow, bees hum and butterflies dash between common and rare wildflowers, including Leavenworth’s tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii), wild pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigida), and button rattlesnakemaster (Eryngium yuccifolium). The meadow is encircled by cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto) studded with bromeliads (Tillandsia sp.) and coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Take a moment to sit in the limestone seating circle and observe the rainbow of colors and busy pollinators around you.

Just outside the Wildflower Meadow, discover an open air patio called Lucy’s Solstice Landing, which aligns with the setting sun on the winter solstice. Native palms, including Florida thatch palm (Thrinax radiata) and sargent’s cherry palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii), stand tall around this reflective spot. If you take a break on the benches, look out across Deep Lake, an aquatic component of NBG’s 90-acre Preserve. Other than examining lush littorals and other native plants, keep an eye out for basking alligators, swooping Ospreys, or dozens of other birds regularly observed here.

Passiflora pallens. Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden.
The final stop on this tour will be the Mary and Stephen Byron Smith Family River of Grass, which honors and emulates the Everglades. The River of Grass is a corridor of aquatic plants that runs through the Garden like a verdant spine. Impressively, this beautiful feature in the heart of the Garden filters rainwater originally collected in the parking lot bioswales. Two boardwalks cross this filtration system, so visitors can admire Everglades palms (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii), bulltongue arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia), and other plants that thrive in mucky soil. The eastern boardwalk includes an interpretive display of some rare Everglades flora. Look for pineland passionflower (Passiflora pallens) twining through soldierwood (Colubrina elliptica) and Miami lead plant (Amorpha herbacea var. crenulata) in this easily overlooked corner of the Garden.

Strongly consider signing up for the field trip to Naples Botanical Garden if you want to learn identification of south Florida species, observe various native landscaping strategies, and enjoy a leisurely walk in beautiful surroundings. Other fantastic cultivated Gardens (i.e. Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Brazilian Garden; Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden) will be in view, although not directly part of the tour. This field trip will remain on level walkways (90% sidewalk/boardwalk; 10% shell path) with easy access to restrooms and water fountains. Total walking distance will be approximately half a mile, with plenty of opportunities to rest. We recommend that participants bring a reusable water bottle, sunscreen, hat, and rain jacket and wear good walking shoes. This Florida Native Plant Society field trip represents one of your last chances to tour Naples Botanical Garden before its four-month closure to complete construction of the new Chabraja Visitor Center.

Submitted by Andee Naccarato
Naples Botanical Garden
Department of Education and Conservation


Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Sounds wonderful. Hope you'll take lots of pics for those of us unable to attend.

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