Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Gainesville proper has a handful of touristy attractions within walking/biking distance for those who don’t own a car, but who still try to make a point of visiting touristy sites and seeing touristy things; cue us, because apparently it is uncommon for people to bike 35 minutes to visit a shopping mall (hey, that’s totally a legitimate tourist site! There was a JCPenney there and I’d never been to one before).

A little pond, just outside the entrance of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

A little pond with its dragon protector, just outside the entrance of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Funky berries! Tasty? Unsure.

Wicked old vines

Wicked old vines

One of these touristy attractions is the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, which is about a 30 minute bike ride from the center of UF campus. The grounds were beautiful, and while well-kept, they weren’t overly fastidious with having everything trimmed and in its place, so it was like a little preserved woodland sanctuary with a whole lot of life.

Giant Elephant Ear plants!

Giant Elephant Ear plants!

Giant Victoria water lilies

Giant Victoria water lilies!

Giant bamboo! The gardens houses the largest public collection of bamboo in the state of Florida

Giant bamboo! The bamboo garden is host to the largest public collection of bamboo in the state of Florida

IMPORTANT NOTE: Take insect repellent with you. The mosquitoes were big and relentless, and they seemed to revel in some weird, twisted joy when it came to buzzing around our ears.

There are both paved and un-paved paths for you to follow

There are both paved and un-paved paths for you to follow, and often you will come across cute little archways like this (beware of giant spiders though)

A MASSIVE (not exaggerating) Golden Orb Spider having lunch; looked like honey bee was on the menu

A MASSIVE (not exaggerating) Golden Orb Spider having lunch. Looked like honey bee was on the menu

You can walk the entire garden grounds in about 2 hours.

This includes time taken to stalk the local wildlife (lizards, fish, turtles, spiders, birds), and also time taken to touch ALL the mimosa pudica plants in sight at the Children’s Garden (the sign at the garden said that it was “for children, or those who are childlike at heart”, obviously we fitted both descriptions so we had every right to be there! Never mind the fact that the gardens are always open to the general public…).

Little gnome and his String of Pearls succulent, at the Children's Garden

Little gnome and his String of Pearls succulent, at the Children’s Garden

Recent flooding, we couldn't get to the far walkway to admire the giant lilies...

Recent flooding; access denied…

In the time that we were at the gardens, we saw only maybe 5 other people wandering around. Maybe because it was the first football game of the season? Or maybe the rain deterred potential visitors, but the gardens were pleasantly quiet on that day.

Our favourite, the rock garden! Filled with cacti and succulents

Our favourite, the rock garden! Filled with cacti and succulents

Bryophyllum daigremontianum (aka Mother of Thousands, Alligator plant, or Mexican hat plant) - curiously propagates by growing babies on the edges of its main leaves. WARNING! TOXIC AND CAN BE FATAL IF INGESTED BY INFANTS OR SMALL PETS.

Bryophyllum daigremontianum aka Mother of thousands, Devil’s backbone, Alligator plant, or Mexican hat plant (…Mexican hat? What?) succulent – curiously propagates by growing babies on the edges of its main leaves. WARNING! TOXIC AND CAN BE FATAL IF INGESTED BY INFANTS OR SMALL PETS.

Brown anole, these little guys are everywhere! This one's shedding its skin

Brown anole, these little guys are everywhere! If you look closely, you can see that this one was in the process of shedding the skin from its head

Pretty pink vine flowers, they almost look like sweet pea flowers?

Pretty pink vine flowers, they almost look like sweet pea flowers?

Much like the botanical gardens in Wellington, Kanapaha holds events all year round, so we will be sure to come back for them, especially for the plant sales. WOOHOO plant sales!

In time, we will have our very own botanical garden on our balcony and in our living area!


Floridian Wildlife 2

Yesterday, for the first time in the history of Apartment number 34 (since we moved in), a squirrel graced us with its presence (WHEEE!!!), and ate the Squirrel Cake offerings on our balcony (WHEEEEEE!!)!

A special visitor

A special visitor

It ate a lot of Squirrel Cake, and left a mess of sunflower seed husks and half-eaten corn kernels, and even a poop present on our balcony railing! How considerate!

So cute and small with her little baby ears

So cute and small with her little baby ears

We discovered that her favourite ingredient from the Squirrel Cake were peanuts; she would work the peanuts loose first, then the sunflower seeds, and then finally the corn kernels.

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Ohm nom nom nom, making a right mess on our balcony

We think she’s a girl because she had super sticky-out nipples along her tummy – so because of that, and also because she’s a bit rotund, we’ve named her Fatty Nips (what? too crass?).

Our new friend!

Our new friend Fatty Nips 🙂

We hope she comes back soon 🙂 We’ll have a bag of peanuts ready for her next visit!


My First Floridian Alligator

Fall Semester starts this coming Monday, and last week we saw the immediate change in atmosphere around town. There was a buzz. A buzz of new intakes. A buzz of fraternity boys and sorority girls doing fraternity/sorority-type hazings (we watched 30 young girls cycle along the main 6-lane road in nothing but their bras and panties last night, it was eye-opening). Permanent UF staff were looking more harassed than ever, and traffic in general was more congested.

Our first college semester experience is about to begin!

I’m secretly excited about game days, because I’ve never experienced an American football game before, and especially not one that’s played in a college town. It will be fun because all we have going for us is Blue Mountain State:

So you know, we have expectations.

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Yesterday I decided to take the long way to James’ work place, and rode around Lake Alice. It was just past high noon, so I wasn’t expecting the lake to be teeming with wildlife (aside from the turtles, who hang around waiting for humans ALL the time). I parked my bike up, took out my camera, and put on my Tourist Face.

Lake Alice

Lake Alice

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Lake Alice and a sneaky soft shell turtle

The turtles were friendlier than ever, but surprisingly territorial towards each other! The bigger ones always chased the littler ones away. Some of the more algae-covered turtles were constantly accosted by little fish pecking at their shells.

The lake perfectly reflected its surroundings, so I had lots of fun taking photos of turtles swimming in the clouds:

Turtle swimming in the clouds

Friendly turtle with his funny snout

Turtle closeup, and some fish!

Turtle closeup, and some fish! This turtle’s expression perfectly sums up how I feel about the 27 degree weather.

After about half an hour of crouching down and taking photos of turtles, I stood up, and saw something coming straight at me from the middle of the lake:

My first Floridian alligator (yep, I was shitting my pants)

My first encounter with a Floridian alligator (yeah I was shitting my pants)

In my head, I was going “ADSDFFHGSADFSGAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!”

So this is what it was like for wildebeests in the wild at the watering holes. Mixed feelings of anxiety, fear, doom. I was a wildebeest. An Asian wildebeest with a camera. I instinctively looked around to see if there was anybody close by that could possibly act as a witness for the police, when they eventually discover my half eaten body.

Alligator swimming in the clouds, with a hitch hiker dragonfly

Alligator swimming in the clouds, with a hitch hiker dragonfly

To be completely honest, I think it was more wary of me than I was of it.

But in my head I was still going, “ADSDFFHGSADFSGAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Especially when, at one point, it did that thing that alligators and crocodiles do, you know, the diving-under-the-water-and-slowly-creeping-up-closer thing that everyone has seen on TV, right before it leaps up to choke out the Asian with the camera wildebeest.

Gator by the bank, it had a wound under its left eye

Gator by the bank, probably wondering if I was tasty

By now, I had retreated back onto higher ground, giving the alligator a wide berth. When it swam up closer to the bank, I saw that it had a big wound under its left eye; a turtle dinner gone wrong maybe? or a scrap with another gator? It was a young gator, its head about the length of my forearm.

Anyway, it must’ve decided that I wasn’t worth the risk, because shortly after this photo was taken, it turned around, whipped its tail a couple of times, and headed back out to the lake.

And that was my first encounter with a Floridian Alligator.

Mirror reflection, Lake Alice

Mirror reflection, Lake Alice

Thank you, Lake Alice. I had fun shitting my pants.