Saturday, January 28, 2012

Creatures from Our Gardens at the 1st Annual Islamorada Fine Art Expo

Double-takes were not uncommon at the 1st Annual Islamorada Fine Art Expo on January 21-22, and many attendees were no doubt thinking they may have had too good a time the night before. Why? Because the streets were crawling with a few much-larger-than-life creatures including a lizard, praying mantis, and glow worm that escaped our Gardens:

Annie Hickman is the designer of the costumes and also the performing artist in the lizard costume. Veronika, our Grounds Manager, made a fantastic praying mantis and Ronnie Harris, VP of the Gardens, made a groovy glow worm. Our objective in showcasing these creatures was to introduce people to our relatively new Botanic Gardens here at Kona Kai and also add a unique artistic and interactive element to the Art Expo. I was the designated photographer for the weekend and worked with Tracey and Denise, who you may know from our Front Desk, to snap high-quality pictures of Expo attendees with the creatures (free of charge, which was surprising to many)  so that one person in a given group didn't have to be out of the picture to take the photo; we will be sending the pictures to them via e-mail. Watching people interact with the creatures was very interesting and entertaining - most folks warmed up quite well to them:

...but then there were also some who were a little frightened, understandably so, of such large creatures before we explained that they were actually just people in very convincing costumes:

You might wonder what these sorts of creatures have to do with botanic gardens. If we look closely at plants and their interactions with their surroundings, we find that many "creatures" are, for better or worse, integral parts of a plant's life: plants often rely on creatures for pollination and seed dispersal; plants produce flowers with beautiful colors and diverse shapes in order to attract different creatures; plants may form symbiotic relationships with insects where insects protect a plant from herbivores in exchange for food and/or housing provided by the plant; plants produce many chemical compounds, which are often useful to humans (e.g. caffeine, quinine, digitalis), in order to deter herbivorous creatures. Essentially, we have insects to thank for a significant part of plant diversity, beauty, and ethnobotanical utility.

Be sure to check out our Facebook page for a larger album of photos of the creatures at the Islamorada Fine Art Expo, which should be up in the next week or two.  Also, be sure to check in for a stay at Kona Kai sometime; you never know what you'll find in our Gardens!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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