The following excerpt is from the book "Attracting Humming Birds and Butterflies in Tropical Florida" by Roger L. Hammer. This book talks about different ways of maintaining and sustaining Florida trees gardens and plants. it gives the user a in-depth view on growing, maintaining and caring for Florida tress. This is a great book for any tree enthusiast and provides a wider knowledge to tree doctors, tree arborist and tree surgeon.

The focus of this book is neither hummingbird nor butterflies but, rather, the plants that attract them to gardens in tropical Florida. This region is blessed with pleasant year-round temperatures along with an enticing array of native and tropical plants from which to choose. Many of Florida’s butterflies, like the flowering plants they visit, are tropical species that can’t survive in parts of the state that experience prolonged or hard freezes, or they are restricted in range because of their native larval host plants can’t tolerate winter freezes. In addition to tropical butterflies, there are even tropical hummingbirds that occasionally cross the Straits of Florida from the nearby Bahamas, and perhaps even Cuba, to the wonderment of gardeners and bird-watchers alike. If you’re lucky, one may grace your own Florida garden if only for a fleeting visit. This is not, of course, meant to belittle the charm and elegance of the ruby-throated hummingbird that embellishes gardens in tropical Florida through much of the year.   

The number of plants that can be cultivated in tropical Florida is overwhelming. Not all of them are attractive to butterflies or hummingbirds, but those that do entice theme- either with nectar or pollen (butterflies and hummingbirds) or as larval food (butterflies)-are worthy horticultural subjects for gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike. A landscape that has been designed and planted specifically as an invitation to hummingbirds and butterflies immediately becomes an outdoor classroom for inquisitive children as well as an endless source of soul-satisfying pleasure and rejuvenation for people of all ages. Gardens are places of peace and tranquility, but when you retreat to your garden for solitude, just glance around-you will quickly realize that you are anything but alone.

Hummingbirds and butterflies offer us a reason to plant a flowering garden; for some gardeners, they are the only reason.  Hummingbirds are feathered jewels that almost command attention, and I never tire of watching them dart from blossom to blossom, chattering all the while.  Butterflies seem less commanding, perhaps because we Florida gardeners see them nearly every day of our lives, but they still offer that closeness to nature that keeps us in touch with life itself.  And who among us does not pause to admire a giant swallowtail gliding by or watch a monarch feasting on nectar from a blossom?

For as long as I can remember, I have lived among gardeners, and some of my most pleasant childhood memories were those spent with my grandfather in 1950s Orlando, Florida, where he grew rows of Gerber daisies (Gerbera Jamesonii). He grew them as a hobby, a source of income, and contentment.  I can still well remember the plants cloaked with beautiful and colorful blossoms.  My grandmother had her camellias, gardenias, azaleas, and roses along with fruit trees and a chicken yard.  My parents tended a shade house full of plants as well as a small water garden at their oceanfront home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where my brother and I grew up. My brother is a passionate collector of aroids and helped found a new chapter of the American Begonia Society when he lived in Texas.  Most of my friends are gardeners to some degree, and a number of them grow plants as a profession.

Over the years, my former wife, Lisa, and I managed to transform a 1-acre avocado grove near Homestead, Florida, into a lush oasis of nature and exotic trees, shrubs, palms, flowering vines, tropical fruits, spices, and culinary herbs, complete with a natural pool where we could swim among fish and waterfalls.  The considerable mischief of Hurricane Andrew aided this transformation in 1992 when the eye of the Category 5 storm passed directly over our home. Although our small 1926 home made it through the storm unscathed, the grove that once surrounded it was destroyed. After a bulldozer cleared away the debris, we had a nearly vacant acre of land on which to begin planting anew. To those of us who live in Florida, tropical storms and hurricanes are a stark reminder that even large, mature tree can be temporary residents in our gardens. But change brings renewal, and the remaking of a garden always has a way of bringing joy pride, and accomplishment to one’s life.

My wife of nearly three years, Michelle, is an impassioned collector of exotic orchids,
and because of her we now have a large shade house brimming with breathtaking
orchids that hail from all parts of the world.

Since I am a gardener and professional naturalist, my interests followed a natural migration toward plants that attract birds and butterflies. The excitement of seeking out new plants and then seeing birds and butterflies visit them has guided me in my life’s pursuit. I regard each plant as a new companion in life, and a new plant is no different to me than a new friend. When I bring home new plants, they become my enlightenment, my inspiration, and my education.

Gardens relax us, teach us, and connect us to the soil, and being a gardener has made me a better naturalist and teacher. The comparatively small portion of the botanical world that shares our property allows me the opportunity to make observations and then teach others from personal experience. I am blessed to have had a rewarding profession as an interpretive naturalist that not only kept me immersed in nature but also allowed me to introduce others to the things I love. Also, being a gardener is deeply humbling, because you become the recipient of the friendship and generosity of fellow gardeners- and there are no souls on Earth more generous than gardeners. We all want to share our passion, so if this book helps you take on gardening as a partner in life or brings you closer to nature, then it will have achieved its purpose. Happy gardening!

Key to Symbols  

  • Florida native
  • Attracts hummingbirds
  • Attracts adult butterflied
  • Butterfly larval host
  • Toxic to humans and pets

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