Making the nearly five-hour drive between Dallas and Galveston, two discrepancies make themselves readily apparent. The first is going through the town of Ennis, where apparently the city ordinances don’t allow its local strip clubs to advertise themselves as featuring nude entertainment, leaving a whole line of establishments promoting “fabric-free cabarets”. The other is that while the Houston area has a paucity of naturally growing palm trees in the area, I suspect that local ordinances require every restaurant and retail establishment to plant at least one palm out front. The closer you get to Galveston, the more palms line the sides of Highway I-45 until you actually get to the Gulf coast. The coast then goes to salt marsh and flats, and the palms start up again after crossing the bridge from the mainland to Galveston Island.
Out at Moody Gardens, that theme continues, as the climate is perfect for several species. It’s also perfect for cycads, philodendrons, and, interestingly enough, roses, and they’re planted lushly and profusely around the Moody Gardens hotel grounds. The palms, though, dominate everything, with plenty of ferns, epiphyte orchids, and other flora growing in the crowns, and the attendant flora comes with fauna. Birds are the most obvious, and it was a little too cold to see amphibians, but a few reptiles were still around, and those will be featured shortly.
One of the best surprises, though, was discovering how well Araucaria heterophylla, the Norfolk Island pine, does on Galveston Island. Under Dallas conditions, they won’t survive our occasional but brutal freezes, and without a high-humidity environment, they won’t grow to be more than the Charlie Brown Christmas tree that time forgot. With Galveston’s balmy climate and high humidity, they grow to full trees with remarkably lush foliage. Combine this with the cycads, and all the surrounding gardens need are a few life-sized dinosaur figures to make the place resemble a recreation of the Arlington Archosaur Site during its heyday. After years of only seeing seedling Norfolk Island pines, seeing a full-sized tree was a very welcome sight, and the Gardens are loaded with them in various sizes.
More to follow…