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The Jones Neighborhood: Part 1

Florida — The Sunshine State — palm trees — white sand beaches — orange trees. Unless you live there — in which case, it is bumper-to-bumper traffic, housing foreclosures, ethnic tension and drugs. Well, maybe the true reality lies somewhere in between.

I have two sisters who live in the Fort Lauderdale area (South Florida) — perhaps some five miles from each other. But it is due to my parents that I am here now. Several times in recent months I have flown out to help deal with my mom's health issues and assist in her care. However, years ago in the mid-1960s I also lived in this same area when my dad's company moved the family down here from my childhood home in Maryland.

My sister and her husband live in the city of Plantation on the western side of the Fort Lauderdale metro area. They bought their lot back when it seemed to be still in the middle of the Everglades. Well, the attractive aspects of South Florida have brought lots of folks to this area, expanding civilization westward and thus transforming this former swampland into a lovely suburban community of large lots and substantial homes.

Many of the early pioneers to this community, such as Janie and Danny, built their own homes — doing much of the actual work and contracting out the work that they couldn't do themselves. Later, wealthier settlers arrived and built some absolutely incredible homes. The result is a wonderful upscale community with the attributes that the Florida Tourist Board promotes (although the beach is 14 miles east of here) and very few of those negatives they would prefer not to publicize.

And it is here at Janie and Danny's home where our parents are now living and where I have been coming to visit to help care for them whenever I am needed. Another unexpected benefit of retirement is the freedom to be able to do so. Thus I am here in Plantation but with sufficient free time to walk the neighborhood, capturing photos of the community — its homes, flora & fauna. These photos are all from my little point-and-shoot camera. I hope you enjoy them.

Most of the folks living here have done a nice job of landscaping. Check out this palm tree with ferns planted in crevasses in the trunk.



One surprise for people who live in temperate climates is that tropical and semi-tropical areas (South Florida is the latter) support vegetation that looks very familiar. In fact, one may be able to look around indoors — perhaps at home but certainly in an office setting — noticing a potted Queensland Umbrella plant, aka Schefflera. Of course, a Schefflera in a pot will not grow nearly as big at those planted outdoors — the former becoming a bonsai-like version of the real thing.

Florida flora is full of color — sometimes in the leaves and sometimes in the fruit. We believe this is a Brazilian-pepper tree also known as a Christmas berry tree — or locally as a Florida Holly. Unfortunately it is considered an invasive species and residents are discouraged from planting it or encouraging its growth. This one was in a vacant lot — so it could grow unhindered until that lot is eventually developed. 'Tis a pity since the berries are so pretty. You may even recall seeing photos of this same plant from my most recent trip to Hawai`i.

Just down the street is one of the HUGE homes I mentioned earlier. Not only is the house large but the lot is enormous. We could even fit a par-3 hole on their property. Add the neighbor's property and it would be a par-4 hole.

And that neighbor's residence is even bigger. This is one that has recently changed hands as a result of foreclosure.

Back in January when I took this photo, South Florida was in the midst of a drought — thus the largely brown lawn. I must have an "in" with the rain gods because ever since I arrived for that visit, the rain hasn't stopped — mostly afternoon thundershowers — but rain nonetheless.

Okay, temperate climate folks — look around and see if you can spot one of these plants in your office or home. It is a Philodendron. Years ago, I had one in my office at Control Data in Arden Hills, MN. Its leaves were never this large but it grew and grew and grew. I used paper clips to hang the vines up on the wall — with it eventually growing above the doorway. Now that was a Philodendron!

And what warm weather area would be complete without Bougainvillea. We have so much of it in Arizona that it is the primary source of color in Phoenix area landscaping. I especially love the bright red variety.

And I also love the purple variety. Heck — I love them all. Of course, Bougainvillea also reminds me of Hawai`i, where I have found more colors than anywhere else — even oranges and whites.

Another plant that takes me back to my beloved Hawai`i is the Norfolk Island Pine or Cook Pine. Well, actually they are two different species although they are quite similar. I think that this one is a Cook Pine (as if you really cared). They were planted in Hawai`i to act as a windbreak in the fields of the plantations. I don't know how they arrived in Florida — perhaps just for landscaping. However, many have been sculpted by the hurricanes — notice this one looks like a giant monster took a bite out of the left side.

Wow, finally some fauna. The Big Mouth Bass sure do get big down here. This one is so big it became a mailbox.

As you walk about, if you keep looking you might find a new treasure. Again I have no idea what kind of fruit this is. My sister calls the plant a stink vine because it smells so bad. The fruit was growing on a vine that was climbing a utility pole. Beautiful even if stinky.

Finally the Florida Tourist Board would be happy with me — a palm tree. Not just any palm tree but a coconut palm tree — the iconic symbol of almost any tropical (or in this case, semi-tropical) area.

Tragically, most of the long-established coconut palms have been killed by the coconut tree blight or (more technically correct) Lethal Yellowing. As I understand it, the experts were never able to find a way to kill off the tiny organism that caused the tree deaths or to inoculate the trees against this pathogen. The only remedy was to import different varieties of coconut palms that are already resistant to the contagium.

Although many of the plants in Florida are similar to those in Hawai`i, there is one feature that would tell me instantly where I am. South Florida is extremely flat — as seen in this photo of the road that runs past my sister's home. In fact, when I lived here as a teenager, we joked that the nearby freeway overpass was the highest point in South Florida. That assertion was not far from the truth.

The walkabout will continue next week...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com