An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 17, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Time in the Everglades

On our second full day in Florida we drove west of Fort Lauderdale, past the yacht brokers, the beautifully landscaped neighborhoods, beyond the golf courses, national chain stores and familiar restaurants.  Through the car window, among all this development, you can see a system of canals, levees and control gates that separate new Florida from the Everglades.  This has to be one of the most engineered ecosystems on the planet, and a fragile one at that.  I don't know much about the subject, but I do know that the Everglades were nearly ruined, have been stabilized begrudgingly, and are now being restored. However the recovery must be managed, as all of man's meddling means it can't yet stand on its own.

Now let me come down off my high horse - and climb into an airboat.  Our destination was Sawgrass Recreation Park which offers group and private tours of the Everglades, and is home to a small and somewhat sad zoo.

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This is a female boat-tailed grackle, which our captain mentioned was a nuisance bird. I have missed them though. Where I once lived they were a constant presence, as the showier males always try to out-sing and out-display one another.

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Was that what we all came to see in the previous picture?  I do believe it was.

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By this point I could have easily reached over the side of the boat and touched the gator. In fact, I was probably closer than I wanted to be and was recoiling a bit while the other people in the boat were pushing me forward so they could get a better look.

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After this he submerged and went on to doing what his kind have been doing for millions of years, and we went on to Ikea.

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(Next up: another piece of old Florida)


  1. IKEA, huh? Funny! I remember this fellow or one of his cousins from our own trip to the Everglades a few years ago. It was remarkable how many alligators we saw there and along the highway-side canals on the way up the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida. Very creepy creatures, but fun to see them in the wild.

  2. That head would have made a very nice cowboy boot. he he.

  3. Les,
    It never seems to make a bit of difference where you go or the circumstances of your surroundings. You ALWAYS get the best photos! You really are very talented.

  4. What a thrill -- and I don't mean the visit to Ikea.

  5. I really hope that was a telephoto lens. Othwerwise I would hate to be your insurance company.

  6. Florida's flora is beautiful - so tepmting to live there- but some of the fauna, like the one you were so close to...Yikes!
    Thanks for the vicarious vacation!

    Do Florida's reptiles cut down on the rodent population?

  7. Pam,
    I am utterly fascinated by them, and respectfully fear them at the same time.

    I have seen juveniles taxidermied with their heads as the point of the boots. Not the fashion statement I want to make.

    Thank you very much for the kind compliments. I will try and stay grounded though.

    The visit to IKEA is always good too. It makes me wish we had one closer to the house.

    No telephot, he was really that close.

    Sorry but I can't answer your rodent question. I believe the gators we saw ate a lot of fish and fowl.


  8. as a Floridian who grew up swimming with attitude is a bit blase but a huge one can over turn your boat with its tail.... if the rodent is swimming yes they will eat it..He looks good sized! and wow that was close! fantastic shot glad you held your composure!

  9. Hi Les, That last sentence was perfect. I have never seen one of these guys up close and personal. He looks huge and very scary.

  10. Didn't they let you take any photos at Ikea?!

  11. Has anyone ever referred to an alligator as gorgeous? You took fantastic photographs!

    -- Georgia