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Endangered Cycad Garden to Open at Flamingo Gardens

March 19, 2019 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Flamingo Gardens Botanical Garden and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary will open their new world-class Cycad Garden, featuring rare and endangered cycads from around the world, on March 16, 2019 as part of their annual Garden Festival and Bonsai Show.

The new Charles L. Ross and Malcolm Chip Jones Cycad Garden, named for the project’s major donors, is part of the Wray Botanical Collection and features more than 100 species of cycads from Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. The project is the largest garden expansion at Flamingo Gardens in twenty years.

Cycads are one of the most threatened plant groups in the world due to deforestation and face considerable conservation obstacles. Ex situ, or off-site conservation by public gardens is vital to most cycads’ long-term survival. Central to this effort is planning and building cycad collections, like the one planned at Flamingo Gardens, as a global safety net against plant extinction.

Many cycads are highly endangered, requiring a unique growing environment for continued success. Flamingo Gardens is privileged to be located in South Florida’s unique geographical sub-tropical/tropical area, almost nonexistent elsewhere in North America, making it possible to cultivate unusual, rare and exotic tropical cycads from around the world.

Cycads are among the oldest living plants on earth, once providing food for the dinosaurs and more recently providing food for Native Americans in this area. Origins of the plant have been found worldwide in fossil records.

Keith Clark, Executive Director of the Gardens, is excited about the education opportunities around the new Cycad Garden: “Cycads, with their association with dinosaurs and primitive times, can fire the imagination and interest in school-age children. More than 170,000 guests visit Flamingo Gardens each year including over 30,000 school children. It is an excellent opportunity to educate children about the roles plants play in our environment, and the need to preserve them.”

Cycads are also one of the most distinct plants in appearance. Although they look like palms or ferns, they are part of the gymnosperm group. Gymnosperms are seed-bearing vascular plants, such as cycads, ginkgo, yews and conifers, which develop “naked seeds,” or seeds unprotected by an ovary or fruit. Cycads are dioecious where individual plants are either male or female. The female cycad usually produces a single rounded seed cone, and male cycads usually produce several cylindrical pollen cones.

The new Cycad Garden has been a year under construction. The new cycad collection was integrated with the existing tram trail and Pioneer Walkway garden making it a destination for visitors and a designated stop during the garden’s Narrated Tram Tour.

“Signage and walkways connect the Pioneer Walkway of Florida Native plants to the new Cycad Garden to provide access and public education about the cycad origins,” said Patrice Sonnelietter, Botanical Curator for Flamingo Gardens. “Boulders and graceful elevation changes complement the scale and drama of the cycads,” explained Sonnelietter, “and keep plants raised above excessive seasonal rainfall which is redirected to a new low-lying dry stream bed of grass. A new raised bridge provides a view over the garden and to a hidden lake beyond the cycads.”

The Cycad Garden was made possible by donations by Charles L. Ross and Malcolm Chip Jones, and the Stella Fund of the Community Foundation of Broward. Additional support was provided by Jesse Durko, Carol Holdren, Fort Lauderdale Orchid Society, Equality Park Garden Club, Montgomery Botanical Center, Palm Beach Palm & Cycad Society, The Cycad Society and Sue Wilder.

Flamingo Gardens’ new Cycad Garden opens to the public on March 16 as part of the 23rd annual Garden Festival and Bonsai Show. On March 16 and 17 visitors can take guided tours of the new garden throughout the day, plus visit the Garden Festival featuring a Bonsai Show presented by the Broward Bonsai Society in the Gallery. Visitors can also browse plants and gardening supplies for sale, participate in plant presentations and demonstrations, and enjoy music, food, and even a Kids’ Gardening Zone.

The Garden Festival and Bonsai Show, along with the new Cycad Garden, is open 9:30am to 4:30pm and is included with admission to Flamingo Gardens: $19.95 ages 12+, $12.95 ages 3-11, and free for children age 2 and under as well as members of Flamingo Gardens. The last tickets are sold at 4:00pm. Flamingo Gardens is located at 3750 S Flamingo Rd. in Davie, FL. For more information visit www.flamingogardens.org or call (954) 473-2955.

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