"You'll know when we get to the Grove, because you won't need your sunglasses anymore"
The first time a good friend of ours came to the Grove, her future husband told her "You'll know when we get to the Grove, because you won't need your sunglasses anymore."
She recalls riding on the back of a scooter through Downtown Miami and Brickel, and thinking that when she removed her sunglasses, it would be because she went indoors. And then, she arrived in Coconut Grove, took off her sunglasses, and decided to never leave.
Looking down on the Grove from above and when entering, the premier visual distinction that sets the area apart from its surroundings is the stunning, dense vegetation. The natural Canopy that hovers over the Grove created by the many mature trees that are part of the landscape is one of the most beloved attributes of the area. A variety of Palm Trees are scattered between and throughout the Oak, Mahogany, Gumbo Limbo, Banyan, and Royal Poinciana trees, among others, that shade the village. These trees make an immediate and bold impression and are part of the natural appearance that the Grove is known for.
Within the trees live a variety of air plants, orchids, vines, ferns, and mosses that further thicken the canopy and add to the tropical beauty of the Grove. The host trees provide the filtered light necessary that spoils us with exquisite naturally blooming orchids nearly year round. Aside from lending us an attractive backdrop and natural shade, the canopy is also home to various birds, squirrels, lizards, bats, frogs, insects, and spiders that all contribute to the ecosystem in their own important way.
Many of the trees that make up the canopy themselves flower with brilliant color much of the year. Summer is welcomed by a jolt of color from trees like the Royal Poinciana with its flame red sprawling blossoms, and the Bulnesia (Verawood) with its sunny gold show that repeats itself a number of times between early Spring and late Fall. The continuous display of deep greens scattered with various colors from blossoms of trees, various climbing vines, shrubs and ground cover visibly boast the Grove's dedication to preserving natural beauty and environment.
Tropical Hardwood Hammock
At one time, Tropical Hardwood Hammocks extended from the Florida Keys to as far north as Cape Canaveral along the Atlantic Coast. Today, the hammocks in Florida are found only in small patches and only in South Florida and the Florida Keys. These remarkable canopy forests of trees and shrubs persevere in shallow soil at elevation not far above sea level, just high enough that are not subject to seasonal floods. Larger areas of Hammocks can be found in the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park, but there are a few acres of Natural Hammock in the Grove.
The thick, mature canopy cools the interior during the hotter months of the Summer, and shields it from the cooler temperatures and winds in the Winter. As this also results in a more sparse shrub density on the floor and understory level of the forest, the Tropical Hardwood Hammock has a higher resistance to wildfire; except during extremely dry periods. Many species of birds, owls, lizards, and rodents, as well as raccoons find Hammocks a safe and suitable home. These forests are beautiful and very special.
Coconut Grove supports several small and moderate sections of Tropical Hardwood Hammock. The Barnacle Historic State Park is home to a beautiful hammock stretching from the gate at Main Highway all throughout the entrance of the property, where there are often squirrels and various birds playing chase in branches of the trees. The Viscaya Museum and Gardens are also surrounded by original native hammock, which was purposely preserved by James Deering. Other small patches exist on public and private property around the Grove. Just South of the Grove, The Charles Deering Estate is home to the largest virgin Tropical Hardwood Hammock in the continental United States.
Though naturally engineered for efficiency and resilience, invasive species, development, and changes in the mean water table, have all played a role in the diminishing of the natural hammocks. Many efforts have been initiated to preserve the existing hammocks and restore or grow new Tropical Hardwood Hammocks in areas where possible.