The adventure continues! Here at your Redland Fruit and Spice Park, we are in the midst of the summer fruit season, with trees groaning under the weight of tropical fruits both familiar and unusual. I like to view the seasons as a slow-motion journey through the year, like walking down a road that you would normally drive. This month we find ourselves in some beautiful country to be sure.
Muscadine grapes, Vitis rotundifolia, are native to the southeastern United States, and are relatively easy to grow and care for. Ours look fantastic this year thanks to our dedicated horticulture crew, and the volunteers that helped us prune them last year. The basics are a sunny spot with well-drained soil, and some sort of trellis. One very important factor is choosing a good variety—like any other fruit. If you would like to try to grow grapes for jam, jelly or even wine, the best advice I can give is to consult the extensive knowledge base at the University of Florida on this and any other growing interest. Here’s a good place to start.
Another specimen in our collection that will catch your eye this month is Lignum vitae, Guaiacum officinale. Translating literally to “wood of life”, this native is extremely slow growing, producing timber that is exceptionally durable, strong, and dense. Anecdotally, it is said to have been used for roller skate wheels, bowling balls, ship building, and even for the truncheons carried by British “bobbies”. Our beauty which is getting ready to bloom, takes pride of place along the pathway in our Tropical Americas Fruit Forest. Hopefully the timing of your next visit will coincide with this gorgeous display.
As we make our first tentative steps towards normalcy, I would like to offer a few reminders, starting with the fun stuff. First, our Mango Café is open for take-away with all of your favorites. Mango smoothie and a lobster roll anyone? We have placed picnic tables near the café for convenience. Second, as part of our celebration of National Parks Month, we are offering a 2 for 1 adult admission special. What better way to get outdoors?! Now, on to the reminders that we are practicing social distancing, and requiring face coverings at the park entrance and other close-quarters common areas. Other parks rules can be accessed here or at 305-247-5727.
Now, if you will indulge me in an exercise of perspective. I am currently reading (again) one of my favorites—The Commodore’s Story, the autobiography of Ralph Middleton Munroe, a very early settler of the Coconut Grove area. It is a true lens back to a time that if I am honest, would be amazing to visit, but perhaps not live in. What struck me given our current time of tragedy and change, is how matter-of-factly these hardy pioneers just got on with life before electricity, A/C, refrigeration, transportation, well you get the idea. The Commodore spent his life immersing himself in the wonders of a new frontier. The tragedy and hardship that he encountered on his journey did not dampen his wonder for the natural world. I hope we could all take a leaf from his book.
I would also like to send a happy birthday wish to a local conservationist pioneer, Mr. Lloyd Miller, who is turning 100 this month. Mr. Miller was instrumental in the establishment of Biscayne National Park. Imagine what would have been lost forever if he and others did not persevere, and fight stiff-necked for what they believed in. All the best, Lloyd!