Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Agri Leader

Botanical garden offers visitorsbit of everything

Central Florida's Agri-Leader
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 07:41 PM

Purchasing a plane ticket to witness different tropical plant life could cost an arm and a leg, but one place in the state offers it and it's affordable.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a haven for plant lovers, featuring more than 12,900 living plants from all over the globe.

Located in Coral Gables, the 83-acre nature park offers a unique experience, said Paula Fernandez de los Muros, communications manager of the gardens.

"Tropical Botanic Garden is truly a unique place," she said. "Here you can walk garden paths surrounded by the wonders and beauty of nature, talk to experts in horticulture, conservation and science, view impressive art, see butterflies and birds at every turn, and take classes on everything from photography to grafting."

The garden's plants are 25 percent collected from the wild, and include 541 species of palms and 123 species of cycads.

The plants survive in South Florida's climate, and she credits grounds staff for maintaining the grounds.

The park also offers a mixture of nature and art, as at times the venue exhibits sculptures from various artists.

Concerts also are held at the venue throughout the year. Fruits and plants are sold and are grown at the Fairchild's Farm in Homestead.

The park opened in the late 1930s. It is named after David Fairchild, a well-known plant explorer. He traveled the world in search of useful plants, visiting every continent except Antarctica. He brought back plants that currently grace places such as Washington, D.C.

The park was originally purchased by Col. Robert H. Montgomery.

"Dr. Fairchild retired to Miami in 1935 and joined a group of passionate plant collectors and horticulturists, including retired accountant Col. Robert H. Montgomery, environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, County Commissioner Charles Crandon and landscape architect William Lyman Phillips," De los Muros said.

"This core group worked tirelessly to bring the idea of a one-of-a-kind botanic garden to life, and in 1938, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden opened its 83 acres to the public for the first time."

The garden is not operated for profit. De los Muros said plant lovers could get a taste of various species without ever leaving the state.

The park, at 10901 Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables, is a hotbed for visitors, as last year 300,000 people made a stop there.

It also plays host to several festivals, including the International Chocolate Festival, and Food and Garden Festival.

For more information on prices and hours, visit http://www.fairchildgarden.org.

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