Today I visited the most charming garden and it was free. So too are the birds and the beaches that I am enjoying here in Florida. The Joan M. Durante Park is just off Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key and it is a charming 32-acre site which was taken over by the town in the 1980's after the donor, James Durante offered to restore the property in memory of his wife Joan. They have done a wonderful job and today the park includes a large mangrove forest, created wetlands, a salt marsh and a small botanical garden, which includes a selection of roses currently in bloom.
Located in the heart of one of Florida's most exclusive property zipcodes, it's a joy to find this haven with wonderful views over Sarasota Bay - completely deserted on each occasion that I've visited and another great spot to watch the birds that I so enjoy here, because of the park's created wetland system. On my recent visits I have seen herons, egrets, cormorants, ospreys, pelicans and smaller shore birds.
I had never thought about mangroves before coming here, but was fascinated to read in the small, but beautifully produced brochure that you find at the park: "It is the red mangroves found closest to water. They have arching prop roots and their seeds look something like green cigars. Their leaves are large and bright green. Black mangroves will usually be found growing landward of red mangroves ... they 'sweat' salt from their leaves and send up twiggy projections from their roots called pheumataphores (above right), which provide oxygen to their roots. Their leaves are dull green with silver undersides. White mangroves (below right) usually grow landward or are interspersed with black mangroves ... their leaves are usually more rounded than other species." So thanks to the Joan M. Durante Park, I now know a little more about mangroves!
Osprey seen at the park flying away with dinner!