Light Bulb Moments

photo 1This is the Lipstick or Annato tree (bixa orellant). In this shot the seedpod looks carnivorous, but the plant is actually used to produce a dye from the substance surrounding the bright red seeds. You can see the dye staining the inside of the seedpod below.  An entire tree covered with these pods is a very striking sight.                                                                         photo 2While we were in Florida we visited the winter homes of Thomas Edison & Henry Ford in Fort Myers. It’s a charming place to spend a few hours, whether you’re interested in the workings of famous inventors’ minds or just want to see some really cool trees and plants.

Since Edison was buddies with Henry Ford, he became very interested (obsessed?) in  discovering a plant source for latex that could be grown commercially in the United States. He trialed a lot of tropical plants and trees before discovering that plain old goldenrod worked best. Before coming to that conclusion, however, he covered the grounds of his winter home with trees like this now-immense banyan.                                                                                                           
photo 3
This tree, as many of you may know, spreads by putting down feeder roots from its limbs and creating a monster-sized playground of tangled roots. This tree is so huge!  I couldn’t get even half of it in one shot because it’s almost an acre in diameter. This specimen was a gift from Harvey Firestone in 1925 when it was a mere 4ft sapling.

There is also a Mysore fig tree, sited near the Caloosahatchee River, that is equally impressive and often used as a backdrop for local wedding photos.groom-in-tree-1[Thanks to Replica photography for the use of this photo.] In the background you can see Henry Ford’s home. All the homes on this property are fully furnished and you can view the interiors from the porch. When we visited they were still staged for Christmas. At night during the Christmas season, the grounds are filled with thousands of sparkly lights. It’s a very pretty drive along McGregor Blvd to admire the gorgeous, silvery Royal Palms and all the Christmas lights, and something easily done with kids and grandparents.

So even if you’re not into historical sites, the 7 miles of Royal Palms that line McGregor Blvd are worth a tour if you’re near the Fort Myers area. But I do recommend making a stop at Edison&Ford winter homes if you enjoy plants. I’ve barely scratched the surface here—but hopefully it’s enough to wet your appetite to discovery more on your own and put it on your list of spots to visit.

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