1 Every day started with a delicious breakfast - English muffins, toasted with bacon, and freshly made egg salad (eggs I brought from home, of course) with celery and mayo.
2 Kevin ate two muffins and loved them.
3 I ate a sandwich on whole grain bread with a side of cottage cheese - very healthy.
4 Lignumvitae Key was a recommended trip that I went on with Captain Sam, who I introduced to you on my first Florida blog posting.
5 It is a sizeable island, with a veritable botanical treasure growing atop the coral reef island. Thousands of years ago, it was a coral reef underwater. When the polar ice caps froze, the sea level dropped, exposing the top of the reef.
6 Signs keep trespassers off the island. There is a designated entry point and specific visiting times. Over time, storm tides and waves left seaweed, driftwood and other organic debris upon on the bare rock, which decayed, forming small pockets of soil in depressions in the coral rock.
7 We first rode around the island so I could see it in its entirety. Eventually, seeds began washing up on shore from nearby islands, or were carried by the wind, or brought there in the digestive tracts of migrating birds.
8 The seeds began to grow in all of those fertile pockets, creating a life-cycle. With the passing of each generation, a complex and diverse tropical hammock colonized the remains of this ancient coral reef. There are mangroves along the edge and a variety of taller trees inland.
9 The virgin tropical hardwood hammock that thrives on this island was once common on most of Florida's Upper Keys. Much of the forest on those islands has been lost to development.
10 The dock is well-built and quiet.
11 The island is open for tours from Friday to Sunday with a fee of $1.00 per person. Although very interesting, it is not a "tourist attraction" by any means.
12 Cormorants were everywhere, sunning themselves and diving into the clear water.
13 Cormorants are found almost everywhere that water meets shore. Despite spending so much time in the water, they do not possess the waterproofing oil of other seabirds and cormorants spend a good deal of time drying their wings.
14 Seagrass abounds beneath the water.
15 Canons from a diving expedition decorate the entrance and a cement walkway leads to the existing structure.
16 In 1919, William J. Matheson, a wealthy Miami chemist, bought this tiny island and built a caretaker's home with a windmill for electricity and a cistern for rainwater.
17 Today, his hideaway is the visitor center for this island forest. The house is made from coral bedrock and one can see many fossils and shells impregnated in it.
18 In 1953, the island acquired new owners and Charlotte and Russell Neidhauk lived there and served as caretakers. Charlotte wrote this book about her life in Florida.
19 On March 2, 1971 Lignum Vitae and nearby Shell Keys were purchased by the State of Florida, and Lignum Vitae became Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Park.
20 There is a small but informative exhibit in the house, including excellent photographs.
21 The bedroom walls were lined with bead board and the interior was decorated very simply.
22 Historic and interesting exhibits tell the island's story.
23 These are samples of lignum vitae wood, a very dense and hard, resinous wood widely used for tool handles. Because it is a self-lubricating wood, it had many other uses for such things as clock parts and machine bearings.
24 There are lignum vitae samples everywhere.
25 There was much demand for this wood until modern science offered up polymer, alloys, and composite materials which can take lignum vitae's place.
26 There is a very simple kitchen equipped with a water pump sink.
27 Cooking was done with this wood burning stove.
28 "Lignum vitae" is Latin for "wood of life", so named for its medical uses from coughs to arthritis. Chips of the wood can even be steeped as tea.
29 The first Saturday in December marks the Lignumvitae Christmas Celebration, when the historic home is decorated 1930s-style.
30 The decorations were actually very charming, made from palms, coconuts, and other natural found objects.
31 The floor was made of a special type of pine that has wonderful graining.
32 A lignum vitae tree is growing right next to the house and is reputedly about 300 years old.
33 An ancient foundation also made of coral bedrock.
34 Entering the virgin forest one needs a ranger guide to describe all the unusual trees and their woods.
35 The ranger pointed out Gumbo-limbo trees that have reddish-peeling bark. They are often referred to as the Tourist Tree because they resemble the skin of many a sunburned tourist.
36 Poisonwood trees grow abundantly in the Florida Keys. They produce the irritant urushiol, much like its close relatives poison sumac and poison oak.
37 Another type of tree with great bark.
38 A closeup of how flaky it is
39 Another poisonwood, which sheds much like a sycamore.
40 More great bark
41 And more
42 This is a banyan, or strangler fig, growing over a poisonwood tree. It can eventually completely envelop the poisonwood.
43 More impressive bark
44 And more
45 This tree has shelf fungus growing on it.
46 Bromeliads grow upon the high branches of trees.
47 An osprey nest is perched on top of a radio tower. I learned a lot about the kinds of wood that grow in the Keys and what uses they have for local inhabitants, as well as commercial interests.