Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Notes from the North Caribe

The anhinga in the front yard is flapping his soggy wings, wagging his head in time to The Cinderella Suite playing on PBS radio. Who says the wildlife doesn’t appreciate the higher culture here in the North Caribe?

Can’t find the North Caribe on the map? That’s because The North Caribe is how a climatologist, or an orchid fancier, or a Friend of the Fakahatchee Strand thinks of what the rest of us consider to be Southwest Florida, here on the Florida Gulf.

Tropically speaking, we’re in the North Caribbean eco system. So says that oracle of the natural world, Tropicalia, the Sunday Magazine of the Fort Myers News-Press ( in its cover story of Sunday, Nov. 5., devoted to the rare orchids of the Fakahachee Strand and the intrepid trackers who tramp the Strand in search of some of the world’s most elusive plants. If you ever read and loved The Orchid Thief, as I did, this is what we’re talking about.

It’s the idea of being not just Southwest Floridians but North Carribeans that enlarges the perspective. We are what our climate makes of us. The exotic hothouse of the North Caribe has given bountifully, not only the hundreds of rare plants including 45 species of exotic orchids, but also the agricultural breadbasket on the flanks of the Lake Okeechobee, what I called Serenoa country, the land of the creeping palm, the Serenoa repens. It’s a tropical wild west, a place I limned as best I could in my novel, The Serenoa Scandal, which I’ll be discussing as a guest of The Friends of the Lakes Library, this coming Friday, November 10. To brown bag it with a hungry author, call 533-4000 for details, 15290 Bass Road at Gladiolus Drive. 11: 45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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