A few blocks from the white beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden is a wonderful little tropical jewel in the middle of the bustling resort city. While not housing the most extensive collection of equatorial flora, it is definitely worth paying a visit, especially if you're relatively unfamiliar with the local plant palette. Keep in mind that all of these photos were taken in January, when most of the continental US is experiencing regular freezes.
The gardens were founded in 1962 on Collins Canal, once an important transportation route for the shipment of mangos and avocados from the world's largest groves. Declining in care after the Art Deco renaissance and deadly Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the gardens were revitalized after a renewed partnership between private and public entities. Recently, the gardens underwent a $1.2 million redesign by local landscape architect Raymond Jungles.
Near the rear entrance of the gardens, a striking bed of Bromeliads and Agave desmettiana greets entrants. This Agave species doesn't have much of a cold tolerance below 30 degrees, but can handle the humid air of southern Florida, making it an ideal accent specimen for the area. In the background you can see a rare Yarey Palm, but more on that in a bit.
A macro shot of the exploding blooms of Clerodendrum quadriloculare, or Starburst bush. One can see where it gets its common name. It is most attractive when pruned into a tree form, otherwise it can quickly turn into a thicket if the root runners are not removed. It is sensitive north of Zone 10.
This beautiful clump of Staghorn Ferns, or Platycerium bifurcatum, was suspended from a large tree and completely stole the show in this open space.
The numerous aerial roots of this towering Banyan tree (Ficus benjamina) anchored a long sightline that dissected the botanical garden. Banyan trees are actually parasitic fig trees that begin as epiphytes (plants that do not require a typical growing medium like soil) and attach themselves to a host tree before it is established. Many times, the host tree will eventually die and rot away, leaving a hollow, columnar space in the middle of the Banyan tree.
The specific leaf shape of the Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis) is particularly attractive. The plant is often used as a privacy screen like bamboo, but is a less aggressive grower. When allowed, it grows multiple stems, so it is not commonly recognized as a "palm" by its normal definition.
A beautifully-blooming Bromeliad putting on a real show.
Not many places in the continental US can support a Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei) without some winter protection. It is only a palm in shape, but is actually a succulent. Its spine-covered trunk offers more than adequate protection. This particular specimen displayed above has a peculiar, but interesting, shape.
Another epiphyte, this gorgeous orchid has spread its roots around this palm and is proudly blooming.
Blooms of the Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) were covered in aphids, a common occurrence on all Asclepias species. In the foreground, you can see a red ladybug taking full advantage of the aphid buffet. One must take care to not spray the aphids on milkweed to help preserve any caterpillars or butterfly eggs that may be present.
Another impressive fig in the gardens, this Clown Fig (Ficus aspera) was covered in fruit. Most commonly, this species is found as a variegated variety. If you look closely, the fruit here appears to have a slight variegation, but the leaves showed little signs.
This Giant Golden Pothos Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) was climbing the walls of the garden's administrative buildings and creating a wonderful contrast with the white stucco.
The fronds of this critically endangered Yarey Palm (Copernicia fallaensis) really catch the eye. A native of Cuba, the leaves are traditionally used for hats, baskets, and thatch roofs. Its largest population consists of only 84 trees.
Complete with a Tillandsia xerographica accent, this Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) was a very well-developed specimen. Again, because of the extremely mild climate of Miami Beach, trees this size are rarely found outside of the protection of a greenhouse in the US. Beaucarnea is a genus native to eastern Mexico.
To close out this photo tour, this is an image of another blooming Bromeliad, found at the primary entrance to the botanical garden, complete with a partial bed of Sedum.