South Florida’s blooming wetlands

W2

Beige sand.

Beige seashells.

Beige buildings.

Beige shorts on shockingly bare legs.

Only one season: It’s called beige.

The beigeness of Florida can be overwhelming.

It’s like being in Kansas with Dorothy before she gets conked on the head and her farmhouse crash-lands in the Technicolor world of Munchkinland.

If you need a blast of color you have to wait til the orange blossoms pop.

Or do you?

If you’re heading south on I-95 in Palm Beach County, take a right onto Woolbright Road in Boynton Beach and head west past the strip malls and gated communities until you come to Hagen Ranch Road. Turn left and drive a bit until you see the sign — Green Cay Wetlands and Nature Center.

Welcome to Florida’s mini-version of Oz. (Lake Okeechobee would be the bigger version, which also includes longhorn cattle up to their shoulders in swamp water to stay cool.)

Green Cay is the result of a collaborative effort between Palm Beach County’s departments of Parks and Recreation and Water Utilities. The two departments worked to create a water reclamation facility that also teaches visitors about the importance of wetlands in South Florida. (Perhaps something that California should pay attention to.)

The nearby Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach — less than a mile away as the egret flies — was used as a model for Green Cay.

Each preserve has sun-bleached silver gray boardwalks that afford you the opportunity to take in the nest-filled cypress trees and cabbage palms and green-hued waters filled with colorful waterfowl — and the ever-lurking alligators.

One sign warns: “Although human/alligator interaction rarely results in attack, please stay on the boardwalk to avoid any potential conflicts.” And I might add, don’t bring any Chihuahuas on your walk.

The elegant birds that populate the wetlands range from the Great Blue Heron to the Snowy Egret to the Little Blue Heron. Because of their colorful plumage, they were nearly plucked to extinction in the early 1900s by the fashion industry, which used the feathers to festoon hats. Their numbers are still dwindling as their habitats give way to intrusive development — and the land of bland.

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