Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
What Do You Know About Florida? Part 2
Of course many of you will already know a little about Florida, the national fruit, the orange, the national flower, the orange blossom, and its nickname, ‘The Sunshine State’, but did you know that ‘Florida’ is Spanish for ‘flower? ’
Hardly surprising, really, as Florida abounds with exotic blooms, and wonderful trees, including the varied palms that are so familiar to all visitors. The State wildflower is the coreopsis, a bright yellow flower with tooth tipped petals, often called the ‘tickseed. ’
On our first trip to Florida, landing at Miami airport, it was the sight of the soaring palm trees just outside the airport main entrance that is indelibly printed in our memories. The state palm is actually the Sabal Palm, which grows to 20m in height, and has a trunk with a diameter of up to 60cm. It is found all over Florida, and is easily recognisable by its long bare stems with a fan of leaves. It can tolerate both salt spray and cold temperatures, so is ideal for coastal areas.
But did you know that the state bird is the Mockingbird? Made famous by Harper Lee in her semi-autobiographical novel, this little bird mimics the songs of other birds, singing loudly, and repeating the song in rapid succession.
It is probably no surprise that the state reptile is the American Alligator, as many of us have marvelled at them in the Everglades, or even at Busch Gardens. An adult male can grow to over 23ft (7. 1m) and weigh 1000lbs or more, but they are normally between 13-15ft (4. 0-4. 5m). Their long tails, almost half their length, are used primarily for propulsion in the water, where the alligator can move very quickly. Its tail can also be used as a weapon when threatened. However, attacks on humans are actually very rare, and usually the result of people feeding them – so if you see one, never be tempted to feed it!
In contrast, the State Marine Mammal is the much-loved and rapidly disappearing West Indian Manatee. Weighing in at between 400-600 lbs, and approximately 3m long, this gentle and endangered creature has suffered greatly in recent years from accidents with recreational craft. It frequents freshwater rivers and estuaries, and can be found along the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or the Atlantic Ocean. Its large grey or brown body looks awkward, but it is surprisingly agile in the water, being able to do rolls and somersaults. It eats mainly sea grasses and plant leaves but is also known to eat fish and invertebrates. On a trip to the Florida Keys we were lucky enough to see at close quarters one of these incredible creatures. Standing on a boat dock we were surprised to see a huge manatee swimming alongside, its extraordinary bulbous nose lifting above the water. It swam slowly around, appearing as interested in us as we were in it, before heading out gracefully to more open water. Its body bore the battle scars of its increasingly dangerous life amid the pleasure craft which abound in this area. It is a sight we will not forget.
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Page added on: 9 April 2007
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