A Botanical Tour of Koreshan State Park

Koreshan State Park, the historic home of the Koreshan Unity, has many unique specimens throughout the remains of its once-famous botanical gardens, including several varieties of mango, lychee and other fruit-bearing trees, eucalyptus, Chinese bamboo and other flowering trees and plants from around the world. Some even from the Ford and Edison Winter estates in Fort Myers. Here are just a few:

AFRICAN SAUSAGE TREE
The African Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana) is named for its fruit, which resembles a large sausage, is a favorite food of elephants, giraffes and hippopotami. The fruit is ground and used as cattle food in its native Africa where the bark is also peeled and fermented to make beer. The blood-red flowers bloom at night on long, rope-like stalks called peduncles that hang from the limbs. The fragrant, nectar-rich blossoms are pollinated by bats, insects, and in their native habitat, Sunbirds. The mature fruits, which look like giant sausages, dangle from these long stalks.
Photo from No Bad Days RVing.

NIGHT-BLOOMING CEREUS
Night-blooming Cereus is the common name for a large number of flowering ceroid cacti that bloom at night. The flowers are short-lived, and some members of the species, such as Selenicereus grandiflorus, bloom only once a year for a single night. Other names for one or more cacti with this habit are Princess of the Night, Honolulu Queen (Hylocereus undatus), Christ in the Manger, Dama de Noche and Queen of the Night. Hylocereus can also produce dragonfruit.
Photo from Florida Memory.

CHINESE BAMBOO
The Chinese bamboo trees growing along the Estero River in Koreshan State Park is believed to have been started from a clipping given to the founder of the Koreshan Unity, Cyrus Teed, from Thomas Edison’s Fort Myers Estate. One variety of Chinese bamboo is the fastest growing plant ever recorded. In one day, the tree can grow up to 35 inches—1.5 inches per hour! The tallest bamboo tree ever recorded was in Europe and measured 130 feet. The moment bamboo gets harvested, it begins to regrow.
Photo by Will Greene.

FALSE MONKEY PUZZLE TREE
The Koreshans imported the first False Monkey Puzzle Tree from Queensland, Australia. It drops seed pods the size of footballs. Although hurricanes felled the original trees, two small False Monkey Puzzle trees are at the start of the Red Trail. Bowls made from their beautiful wood are displayed in the Ranger Station. This ancient species coexisted with the dinosaurs . The true Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucari araucana) is native to Chile whereas the trees in the park are close relatives (Araucaria bidwillii) and native to Australia, known there as the Bunya tree.
Photo by Astrid Garcia.

TURK’S CAP FLOWER
This spreading shrub grows 2-3 feet or more in shady areas. A member of the mallow family, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii has bright-red petals that form a loose tube with a staminal column that resemble a Turkish turban. Mature specimens are near the Vesta Newcomb and Conrad Schlender cottages.
Photo from The Schramm Journey.

SWAMP MAHOGANY
Eucalyptus robusta, commonly known as swamp mahogany or swamp messmate, is native to eastern Australia. It grows in wetlands and can reach heights of nearly 100 feet. Their thick, spongy reddish-brown bark and dark green broad leaves form a dense canopy. White to cream-colored flowers appear in autumn and winter. Insects eat the leaves, which are also food for the Koala bear. It is an essential winter-flowering species in eastern Australia and has been planted extensively around the world. Its timber is used for firewood ­­­and construction.
Photo from Tripping on Legends.

SAW PALMETTO
This plant grows in low clusters in dry terrain. The saw palmetto produces berries that may be used to treat certain medical conditions, including prostate problems and hair loss. It is believed that some types of hair loss are caused by increased sensitivity of hair follicles to DHT and saw palmetto may be a DHT blocker.
Photo from Estero Historical Society.

ORCHID TREE
Orchid trees (Bauhinia blakeana) are easy to grow trees with pinkish flowers that resemble orchids, and a twin-lobed leaf that resembles a camel’s hoof. One of these trees is located by the Art Hall.
Photo from The Schramm Journey.

GHOST GUM EUCALYPTUS
The common name, ghost gum, refers to several similar tree species native to Australia. They are large trees with light-colored bark and evergreen foliage. Although adapted to arid regions of Australia, some will grow in mild climates in North America. One ghost gum tree is across the ditch from the Monkey Puzzle Island, just north of the Rustic Bridge.
Photo from The Schramm Journey.

Next time you visit Koreshan State Park, see how many of these interesting trees and plants you can find, and let us know if you find others!

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