Sunday, February 21, 2016

2.21.16 - Vizcaya and Botanical Gardens

We made a very ambitious day for ourselves touring Vizcaya and the Botanical Gardens.  By the end of the day, our brains were filled with images of Italian Villas and rare botanical specimens.  What a grand day.


Just south of Miami, in Coral Gables, lives Vizcaya.  We had never heard of it before this trip, but everyone we know who has traveled Miami area, said it was a must.  So tour it we did.
Vizcaya was the 70 room villa and winter vacation estate home of James Deering (think Deering-McCormick-International Harvester).  

It has a distinct Tuscan Italian Renaissance style and a magnificent view of Biscayne Bay.  The home, built between 1914-1922,  is now a National Historic site.  Deering used the home until his death in 1925. 

There are coral stone carvings, columns gazebos, and other structures throughout the estate.

Formal gardens:

It was fun seeing brides having their formal wedding pictures taken at this venue.

There are numerous and significant challenges to maintaining this property and it is considered one of the most endangered historic places in the US.

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens

Our last tourism stop in the greater Miami area, these gardens (started in 1936), are comprised of 83 acres of rare tropical plants, orchid gardens, Chihuly glass sculptures, birds and a butterfly house.  The gardens were designed to emphasize variety and they include specimens collected from all over the world.  Staff scientists are actively conserving tropical plants hoping to avoid extinction of species. 

Rainbow Eucalyptus

This very large Baobab tree, planted here in 1939,  is from the plains of Africa.  The tree hordes moisture during the rainy season, then during the dry season, elephants strip the bark off it to get to the moisture inside.  The wood is soft and spongy and does not show growth rings - it is difficult/impossible to age the tree.  Sometimes the tree develops a hollow in the trunk, which can be used as a house.  The young leaves can be eaten much like spinach.

Tom is tired of standing in front of large objects in order that we get a size reference.

Mature white mangroves.

his palm tree is going to die this year.  It is the type of palm tree that flowers once, then dies. Thousands of seeds will be strewn about - he last gasp of species survival before it dies.

Other oddities - Cannonball tree, and sausage tree, both with strange seedpods.

Chihuly sculpture:

This strange palm grows in a branching pattern.

Fantastic cactus garden

Leaving the gardens at the end of the day, with the deep afternoon sun, was so beautiful

Next Post: Everglades

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2.16.16 - Greater Miami Area

For our visit to this area, many thanks to Hank and Elaine, John and Sergio for dinner away from our usual digs.  The company and food were terrific.  

We were surrounded by Butterflies at Butterfly world, a business enterprise that sprung from a hobby gone wild.  Butterfly World in Coconut Creek Florida is the first butterfly house in the United States and the largest in the world.  

We were told that it is good luck when a butterfly lands on you.
Butterfly World has over 20,000 butterflies.  Kris's favorite butterfly on the outside, then on the inside:

Piano Key Butterfly:

Colorful birds (mostly finches) flying amongst the butterflies:

a lorikeet ‘encounter’ area:

an arboretum of flowering vines that butterflies love including passionflower vine:

a terrific bug room with preserved bugs from around the world, and live bug exhibits
These pictured bugs are about 6" long.  Glad we don't have them here!

There was quite a bit to see here and we stayed longer than we expected to.  Additional butterfly pictures at end of post

 Zoo Miami 

 Zoo Miami is over 750 acres with a 3.5 miles loop trail that winds through animal habitats (organized by continent) with noticeably few bars or cages.  We walked over 12,000 steps.   The weather was sunny and cool – the animals were out and active.  This zoo is a special place.

There is a rare male baby Sumatran tiger (there are only 500 left in the world) that they let outside for public viewing a little while each day.  He was born Nov. 14.  We were lucky to be there at a play time.

75 year old MONSTER Galapagos tortoise: 

This guy gave us many roars at the end of our day.  

Some of the rest:

Extra Butterfly Pictures:

Next post:  Vizcaya and Fairchild Botanical Gardens