The seasonal changes of fall at the Bonnet House (and in South Florida) are much more subtle than the dramatic changes seen and felt in geographic areas to the north. Virtually no hardwood trees at the Bonnet House exhibit the dramatic color changes common to its northern neighbors, but that does not mean that fall is without some important changes that can be greatly appreciated by visitors to South Florida.
The most important change is a move away from the “rainy season” and into the “dry season” common to many tropical places. South Florida’s dry season starts in mid-October and continues until mid-May. Only about thirty percent of South Florida’s annual rainfall occurs during the fall-winter-spring dry season. The arrival of the dry season also means a drop from the summer’s humidity and some slightly (but welcomed) cooler temperatures. Of course, these changes make visiting the Bonnet House even more delightful in the fall!
The end of summer also means the arrival of migrating birds escaping from the north. Some are just passing through to even warmer climates but some stay until spring The most common arrivals are the warblers including Palm, Black-throated Blue, and the Black and White Warblers. Visitors may also see other visiting birds such as Northern Parulas, Ovenbirds, and American Redstarts. Of course, wherever small birds gather so do visiting raptors like Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. Also, the occasional Cooper’s Hawk and Broad-winged Hawk may stop by on their way to Central and South America. Being surrounded by water, the Bonnet House is a magnet for water birds like Egrets, White Ibis and Yellow-crowned Night Herons.
The natural and exotic vegetation at the Bonnet House property also respond to the changes in the weather. Several species in the extensive orchid collection bloom during the cooler drier days and nights. Among them are Mrs. Bartlett’s favorite Vandas. Other species blooming in the Fall include Phalaenopsis (Moth) and Cymbidium orchids. Many are growing “naturally” on the Bonnet House’s many palm trees. A wonderful fall bloomer is Bougainvillea vine. It thrives during the drier and cooler seasons of the year in South Florida. Colors range from white to purple. American Beautyberry has been blooming all summer and is now covered with dramatic clusters of glossy, iridescent purple berries – a favorite food of many birds including the Northern Mocking Bird (Florida’s State Bird). Other plants have also transformed their summer blossoms into berries and fruits including Simpson’s Stopper, Surinam Cherry, Wild Coffee, and Starfruit.
Experience South Florida fall on a crystal clear “blue sky” day with the temperature in the mid-sixties or low seventies along with low humidity, and you will know why the Bartlett’s loved their Bonnet House! Plan your visit today.
Photo of Northern Parula