By JOYCE COMINGORE
Special to The Breeze
I have been a master gardener for 21 years, and in the past few years, I have gotten involved with Florida Yards and Neighborhood. Through these sources, I became aware of the monthly meetings of The Mangrove Gathering Eco-Cafe, organized by John Kiseda, Lee County Parks and Recreation environmental education coordinator.
Live music, coffee, tea and, what John calls "potlatch," a snack/dessert that is shared with current local information on Southwest Florida environmental happenings. It gives us a chance to meet with long-time and newly-made friends, finding options to become involved firsthand with the Earth and all its life. Something like a Yippee Coffee-haus atmosphere with live entertainment, and good friends that want to share their environmental concerns, comments and questions.
This "gathering" is held the third Friday of every month at one of three different locations, in order to cover the county - Rutenberg Park on South Pointe Boulevard, Rotary Park at the end of Pelican and the Calusa Nature Center on Ortiz Avenue. They start at 7:30 p.m. and last until 10 p.m. You bring your own mug (think green, or pay a $1 Earth Tax for a throw-away paper cup) to get free coffee/tea and bring your favorite snack or dessert to share.
There is a wall calendar to post your events or meetings and gather the news that helps you find out what's happening. It's a chance to learn as environmental concerns and solutions are shared, and there are organizational displays and sales.
This month was at Rotary Park, next month it will be at the Calusa Nature Center in the Iona House and September's gathering will be at Rutenberg Park. The next Cape Coral Rotary Park meeting will be the third Friday night in October.
As I, my daughter and son-in-law parked at Rotary Park against the chain link fence of the Wagging Tails Dog Park, I stepped out to gaze at a beautiful full blooming Madagascar palm's wiggling arms around in a whirl with a full head of leaves and white blooms. I stood in awe. I never saw so many arms going so many directions, and I thought they only went straight up, like organ pipes.
I had been to the plumeria (frangipani) seminar at the extension office Tuesday and saw for myself how closely related they were. I wrote about Madagascar palms four weeks ago, in the June 30 article. It was an amazing spectacle that you should go see for yourself.
You will have the chance this weekend, because Rotary Park has two Native Plants Sales a year, and today is one of them. Vendors and native plant experts will be on hand to answer questions that help you find the right plant for the right place. There will be (the commercial we love to hate) a huuuuuuuge sale of trees, shrubs, ground covers, flowering and butterfly plants. Native plants are the way to go to live green.
The summer plant sale is sponsored by the city of Cape Coral Parks and Recreational Department, on the fourth Saturday in July. The spring one is sponsored by the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, usually around the third Saturday of April, near Earth Day. Come-learn-browse.
Rotary Park is the result of funding from the Florida Department of En-vironmental Department Protection for the preservation of these 97 acres of salt marsh and upland, with a lot of rock just under the surface. The Rotary Club of Cape Coral was looking in the mid- 1980s for something worthwhile to use its funds it had been raising, that would benefit our community. So in 2001, after many years of hard work and effort by the three local Rotary Clubs, the Department of Environmental Protec-tion and the city of Cape Coral, Rotary Park was born.
The preserved area cannot be developed, ergo preserve, leaving 9 acres of upland to be developed, containing a wonderful 4,200 square foot environment center housing examples of local wildlife, a meeting place for rain barrel workshops, gardening and nature related sessions, even exercise classes. This facility is available to rent for small to medium-sized gatherings that don't mind sharing it with snakes, frogs, lizards and turtles, each in their own terrarium. The stuffed and carved ones only stare at you.
Also found on the grounds is The Wagging Tail Dog Park for our four legged friends that are not allowed in our regular parks. And it is fitting that babies and toddlers are not permitted in the dog park. It is fenced-in with park benches and shady areas for owners to socialize. It's open sunrise to sunset, registration is required and there are rules with a $15 fee for Cape residents, $30 for non-Cape residents, that can be paid at the Rotary Park office, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturdays.
The Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly House at Rotary Park has guided tours available every Monday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m., that last about 30 minutes, weather permitting. Tour and butterfly house are courtesy of Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife. Donations are gratefully accepted.
I have watched Rotary Park grow and flourish for the past 10 years, and feel this is such a jewel to be found in our own backyard we need to appreciate it more.
Have You Thanked A Green Plant Today? --by Don Anderson "Thank you, thank you, lovely plant, Eye-delighting oxidant. You gratify the eye, and then, To top it off, make oxygen. You beautify, and then, to boot, (Oh lungs, rejoice) you depollute. Thank you for this twofold bliss, Wrought by photosynthesis. (Now I hereby bequeth to you a life supply of CO2).
Joyce Comingore is a master gardener, a national director of the American Hibiscus Society, a board member of the Fort Myers/Lee County Garden Council and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.