Saturday, December 15, 2012

South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

Shortly after we had paid our admission to this garden we were encouraged to check out the reptiles in the back room of the gift shop.  I did not realize until I got home that, according to the park's brochure, it is also a nature center.  At the time I thought it a bit strange to be looking at reptiles instead of flowers.  A carpenter was sprawled on the floor of the reptile room when we arrived there.  He was busily working on some sort of cabinets.  However, he got up immediately from the floor and warmly greeted us.  I must say that I saw some strange things in the room, but the staff member was eager to explain everything. He said that he was  there mainly to do carpenter work, but over time he has gotten to know the animals well.  A large African spurred tortoise was actively banging into the sides of his cage.  I have never seen such an active turtle!  The staff worker explained that someone had bought him as a pet and then turned him over to the gardens.  The  turtle can grow to over 100 pounds; he needs a large grazing area (his diet is largely grass) and he also has certain temperature requirements.  Usually the turtle, pictured below, is kept outside in a cage with a female, but lately he has been heavily courting her and the staff felt she needed a break from him.
There were also two diamondback terrapin in an aquarium. They seemed to be quite playful, coming out of the water to nip at our fingers.  The staff person said that they are usually looking for food, as well as attention.  In the reptile room was also a variety of snakes and one large green iguana.  As we headed out of the main building into the gardens we passed an office where another staff person was holding a cockatoo.  The bird's cage was outside, in the bromeliad conservatory.  However, Buttercup (the cockatoo pictured below) likes lots of attention- later we found another staff person playing with her near her cage
The gardens have a large wetland area, where normally it would be possible to see a large number of birds.  The drought, however, has dried that area up.  Gator Lake is gone, and we at first thought that there was no place of fresh water for the wildlife.  But, as we discovered walking around  that area, there is a creek flowing through the gardens.  The trail we took in the gardens gave us a good idea of South Texas vegetation called "mesquite brush".  Those plants are well adapted to a hot semi-arid climate.  The gardens also have a large variety of roses, and  tropical plants.  There is also a butterfly house.
However, we did not find the above butterflies in the house, but in the gardens where there were many of them flying around.  Not many birds around, just butterflies.  And we enjoyed the orchid house which had numerous of those plants in bloom.  I do believe that they are the most exquisite flower in the world!
As I said earlier, we met up with Buttercup again in the bromeliad conservatory. She was happily playing on the floor with some discarded planters.  In the conservatory, as well as in different parts of the gardens, are other caged birds as parrots, love birds and parakeets.  Some of them would try to catch our attention with a soft "hello" or a loud squawk.  I must say that this botanical garden was a most unusual experience for us!

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