AAA Editor Notes
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is next to Matheson Hammock Park at 10901 Old Cutler Rd. Ever seen a fried egg tree? What about a shaving brush, mousetrap or cannonball tree? You can behold such colorfully named exotics and many, many others at this sprawling 83-acre botanical garden specializing in tropical plants from around the world. A path meanders through flower beds, beneath the shade of a vine pergola, into a palm glade and beside a waterfall in the dim center of a little rainforest. And don't miss the picturesque vista of palm-lined lakes stretching into the distance that's the park's most photographed scene.
The garden's tropical fruit pavilion protects rare specimens of breadfruit, coffee and cacao—among plants you've probably never heard of like durian, salak and chupa chupa (the scientific names, imprinted on metal tags throughout the garden, are usually even stranger). The conservatory next door is packed with foliage that would die even in south Florida's mild winters: graceful ferns, bromeliads and flowering orchids.
Visitors can watch the twice-daily butterfly release at the Wings of the Tropics exhibit in the DiMare Science Village, where thousands of colorful butterflies, hummingbirds, fish and rare plants are on display. And as if this riot of flora and fauna weren't enough, Fairchild frequently hosts sculptural exhibitions with works by such masters as Dale Chihuly installed at strategic locations.
If you want to take in the whole garden, you have quite a hike ahead of you, so instead catch the narrated tram tour that covers the garden from end to end. But should you decide to walk, you'll find plenty of benches where you can rest and enjoy the scenery. You can also plan your visit to coincide with the garden's periodic guided walking tours.
Just remember: to get to the Chinese hat plant, take a right at the elephant apple, don't worry about getting burned by the fire bush or torch ginger, but you can forget about striking it rich among the golden chalice and silver trumpet blossoms.
Guided tours are available. Food is available.