Hello Friends and Family,

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The Jones Neighborhood: Part 3

As I continued my walkabout in Florida, I encountered a nice park complete with playground, abundant lawn and this idyllic pond. Surprisingly, there were rarely any children taking advantage of this spot, even during the milder days of winter and spring. Perhaps it is the pond. Where there is water, one might encounter water moccasins — a venomous semi-aquatic viper. I did not see any but I will bet they were around.

On a subsequent day when Danny and I played golf at Jacaranda Golf Course, I was cautioned about going after an errant golf ball that landed in vegetation growing at the edge of a water hazard — you might not see that snake until it bites you. Naturally, I heeded that warning and left the ball for the golf gods.

I was surprised to find a Melaleuca tree growing in the park. They are considered an invasive species (like the iguana and python). They were originally planted because they soak up so much water — and it was thought a brilliant way to dry up the Everglades — or least the parts of the Everglades that humans wanted to reclaim from Mother Nature.

However, they later discovered that they spread rapidly and are "competitively superior to most, if not all, native plants and rangeland grasses, with infestations resulting in degradation of native wildlife habitats and waterways, including portions of the Everglades National Park, and of the limited grazing lands in South Florida". That characterization was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.

South Florida spent some $22 million on control from 1991 to 2001. Thus my surprise to find this tree in a park — it would seem cheap and easy to cut down Melaleuca trees in parks — then replace them with a non-invasive tree.

Another interesting tree appears to be a variety of Banyan tree. Curiously, it is a non-native species but for some reason is not treated with the same disdain as the Melaleuca. Perhaps it doesn't spread as rapidly or is not "competitively superior". Regardless, I love the way the way the roots cling together giving the appearance that they have melted into one mass. This tree also reminds me of the massive Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui — which covers 2/3 of an acre.

A Royal Palm. This tree is considered by many as an aristocrat of the plant kingdom. The trunk tends to grow very straight unlike most varieties of palms. When my family first moved to Florida in the 1960's, I thought (and still do) the trunk looked like it was made of concrete — perhaps Disney constructed these artificial (-looking) trees for use in their parks, in order to minimize maintenance. Regardless, they are found all over South Florida and tend to give a more formal look to the semi-tropical landscaping.

This appears to be a variety of date palm. What struck me (and why I took the photo) was how the owner had planted the trees to from a hedge blocking the view of what was beyond. Note the red object at the very right of the photo — it is a dumpster for construction waste for a remodeling project. Obviously, the hedge served its purpose well.

Ah, one of my favorites — the Christmas palm. The name derives from the fruit that matures and turns bright red around Christmas time. This palm is very popular in South Florida — some folks are attracted to it because it resembles a Royal Palm, only smaller. It is also common in Hawai`i — reminding me of a particular one on the Bay Course at Kapalua, along my walking/running route.

Then I'm drawn back to Arizona by a variety of Yucca. Watch out for the sharp needles on the ends of the sturdy, sword-shaped leaves. Wikipedia tells me that Yuccas have "a very specialized pollination system, being pollinated by the yucca moth; the insect purposefully transfers the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another, and at the same time lays an egg in the flower; the moth larva then feeds on some of the developing seeds, but far from all". I didn't know that — and I have seen thousands of Yuccas in Arizona.

Suddenly, something equally familiar caught my eye. At first glance, it looked like Plumeria — one of my favorite trees in Hawai`i. However, there is not much Plumeria in Florida and this was a bush, not a tree. I later discovered that in Florida, it is called Desert Rose — and is in the same Family as Plumeria, which accounts for the similar appearance. Unlike Plumeria which has a perfume-like fragrance, the Desert Rose does not have a fragrance that I could detect. Quite pretty though.

Pop, pop, pop — there goes the Firecracker Plant — or as it is called in Florida, the Coral Plant or Coralblow. As I have mentioned before, this plant is common in Hawai`i with a favorite stand along my walking/running route at Kapalua. I thought this was a particularly nice example.

Coming around the clubhouse turn, I spotted a large planting of Natal Plum. This is a plant that is common in Arizona as well as Hawai`i. I even have several bushes planted in my tiny yard just outside my dining room. The blossoms are white and mildly fragrant producing a small edible fruit that turns red when ripe. When you have a large planting with many blossoms, the perfume is heavenly. And yes, there is such a spot on my Kapalua walking/running route. This seems to becoming a theme.

Last stop for today is the beautiful Orchid Tree at the west end of 3rd Street. Although native to Asia, the Orchid Tree is a popular ornamental in the Florida landscape. It derives its name from the shape and color of the flowers that resemble certain types of orchids — although it is not related. In Florida, this tree can reach 25-30 feet in height and is absolutely spectacular when in full bloom. Flowers may be white or, in this case, magenta.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

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