A Coconut Grows in Bokeelia

Cocos nucifera

It takes about a month for the verdant shoot to emerge, so this one likely washed ashore while Hurricane Ian spread millions of tons of natural and man-made debris from Manatee to Collier County (and beyond).

Bokeelia is a tiny island community on Pine Island settled by the Calusa Indians, a doomed advanced coastal society that relied heavily on fishing and shellfish.

Henry Ford came along in the 1920s and purchased land on Bokeelia for a fishing village. He also built a large dock and a hotel on the island, and he established a botanical garden. The village never took off, and a hurricane destroyed the the hotel in the 1940s.

In the 1960s and 70s, the island began attracting retirees and vacationers. Many homes were built as it became a popular destination for boating and fishing. Today, Bokeelia is a small community of permanent residents and many more seasonal visitors. Pine Island’s scenic routes and trails, including flat terrain, winding paths through nature preserves, palm nurseries, mango farms, and picturesque coastal roads make it a rad place to ride your bike year-round.

Bokeelia is also home to several parks and preserves, including the Randell Research Center, an archaeological non-profit researching the Calusa Tribe.

Sea Purslane

Sesuvium portulacastrum

Sea purslane is a salty, crunchy trailside nibble. One hundred grams of raw sea purslane has 32 milligrams of vitamin C, 267 milligrams of potassium, and 69 milligrams of calcium. It’s also a good source of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Click here for a sea purslane chimichurri recipe.

Firewheel

Gaillardia pulchella

The legend of the firewheel dates back to the Aztecs when it was just a simple, all-yellow wildflower. Women often wore the bright, cheerful flowers in their hair or as adornments, and kids played among the fields of firewheels, basking in the sun.

But all of that changed with the arrival of Cortez and his conquistadors. They brought death and destruction. Aztec blood soaked the land. The firewheel flower, moved by pity and grief, caught the falling blood in its petals. And so the legend goes, the firewheel changed forever, its bright yellow hue turned to a deep, rich red.

The firewheel is known as a symbol of the Aztec people and their enduring spirit. Its red petals are said to be stained with the blood of those who fell in the fight for their land and their way of life. And despite the passage of time, the legend remains a powerful and enduring reminder of the strength and resilience of the Aztec people.

The four spindly Gaillardia plants we picked up at¬†The Butterfly Estates¬†appeared to be on their way out for the season. Only a few blooms held on to the warm colors they’re known for. After planting them in the pollinator garden, they bounced back and bloomed with the winter solstice a few weeks away.