botanic

Platycerium angolense
(elephant ear staghorn)

Photo by Alexandra Miller

 

LETTERS FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Botanic Gardens


March 21, 2014

Recently, environmental scientist Kiki Mutis told me: "If you study plants, you study the whole world." Her statement struck me as something I had never really considered; yet if you think about it, Kiki's statement rings true and is especially important to us today.

We practically take it for granted that people have "made our world." Yet, it's a fact that, along with us, plants have been both protagonist and partners as we've "made our world." Therefore, shouldn't we think of plants as "partners" as we continue creating our world?

Here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort, we think so. We think "Plants as Partners" is a significant message for the 21st Century. As we enter our 4th year, our Gardens have evolved into a non-profit educational tropical botanic garden with a unique message. Like many new entities, we are daring to be different, with our message of "Plants as Partners."

In these first three years our unique, "Transforming your understanding of Plants," tour, our educational partnership with The Fairchild Challenge and our expanded ethnobotanic website at kkbg.org have all begun to have an evolutionary impact. Also evolutionary, twenty-first century technologies offer humankind unique new opportunities to learn even more from plants. Thanks to your help, the first step, in transforming humankind's view of plants, has taken root here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.

As we move into our fourth year, your continuing financial support and encouragement is ever more important. Along with financial support from Kona Kai Resort, your donations water our current efforts. But, additional funding is needed for an educational coordinator, a fundraiser, a horticulturist and a marketing specialist.

As noted in past annual letters, our Gardens were not born from a generous endowment, as are most botanic gardens. Without such an endowment, our efforts and public message will remain limited. Thus, this year, we'll be seeking endowments to assure perpetuity for our long-term goal of a twenty-first century world where people have taken "Plants as Partners." Continuing to share your passion about our garden mission, opening your wallets and, lastly, spreading the word that The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort are transforming people's understanding of plants, are the best ways to help us secure the larger funding it will take to continue growing The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.

Remember, all generations need to understand that plants are both partners and protagonists in our lives. That is the role The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort has assumed. We look forward to your continuing support.

Joe Harris

joe

Joe C. Harris, Jr.,
Executive Director, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort
"without plants there is no life...."
gardens@konakairesort.com

The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort

on the grounds of Kona Kai Resort
97802 Overseas Highway • Key Largo, Florida, 33037
305-852-9766
www.kkbg.org

   * In 1999, with a few associates, Ronnie and I founded The Artists Environmental Foundation of the Florida Keys, Inc., a 501 c3 IRS approved non-profit, to promote the natural and artistic beauty and wonder of our islands. Today the AEFFK manages the educational, intellectual and administrative arm of The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.


March 21, 2013

Plants are our best industrialists and our most environmentally conscious citizens. Plants 'manufacture' the air we breathe, the food we eat, the raw materials for many of the things we make and for the energy we consume; while cleansing and recycling what they [and we] use. Plants do all this using only sunlight, air, soil nutrients and water. Each living, breathing plant has a name, a story to tell, a complexity and beauty all its own, and a value to us. We have a lot to learn from these living things that have been around for millennia, since without them we would not be here at all.

This year, and in the years to come, we hope to tell that story, evermore effectively, to many more people. But we need your help. In two years we've enlightened over 1000 visitors and as a Satellite Partner of The Fairchild Challenge, we've shared our message with over 300 local students. This year we aim to show at least 1000 more people through our ethnobotanic Gardens and expect to double student and teacher participation this fall through our Fairchild Challenge Satellite programs. Yes, it's a small number, but we're making a big impression! While our Gardens are only a tiny speck in the botanic world, we aim to become a virtual worldwide ethnobotanic teaching garden by the close of 2013, promoting the crucially relevant role that plants have in our own survival. 

Because The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort is a nonprofit botanical garden operating upon the grounds of a small for-profit resort, we are, in the nonprofit world, both unique and potentially misconstrued. The Gardens was born not from a generous endowment, but of my personal vision of a world in which we all understand that plants are like people.

Until now the AEFFK*, our nonprofit, has subsisted on funds donated mainly by my wife and me. However, the level of resources required to sustain and expand our educational outreach far outstrips our capacity to continue funding The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort. We now need your financial assistance.

With your generous tax-deductible contributions, we'll continue growing our successful school and public educational efforts. We'll expand our message through kkbg.org and mount museum quality ethnobotanic exhibits for public enlightenment. For the longer view, with your assistance, we'll fund the acquisition of the property upon which we operate.

When I first began to learn about fundraising last year, I quickly realized how many worthy causes seek your financial assistance. Thus, I constantly remind myself that our Gardens are simply a "speck" in the universe; "a seed seeking germination." However, here in the 21st century, both our mission and our vision are of the utmost importance; we're germinating a new ethnobotany, a "21st Century ethnobotany" that will enrich our lives by increasing the awareness of the importance of plants in our lives, helping preserve our lives here on earth. Please consider keeping us alive and growing by donating what you can and becoming a garden member or patron.

Thanks again for your time, attention and support. Your donation can be made at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6R0Xa, at kkbg.org or by mailing a check payable to: AEFFK-KKBG.ORG. As always, you can contact me directly at: gardens@konakairesort.com.

 



Joe Harris

joe

Joe C. Harris, Jr.,
Executive Director, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort
"without plants there is no life...."
gardens@konakairesort.com

on the grounds of Kona Kai Resort and Gallery
97802 Overseas Highway • Key Largo, Florida, 33037
305-852-9766
www.kkresort.com

   * In 1999, with a few associates, Ronnie and I founded The Artists Environmental Foundation of the Florida Keys, Inc., to promote the natural and artistic beauty and wonder of our islands. Today the AEFFK manages the educational, intellectual and administrative arm of The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.




Botanic Gardens


August 21st, 2012

After years of planning and planting, our gardens opened to the public eighteen months ago. Surrounded by Everglades National Park, the US National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort is located in one of the most unique ecosystems in the continental USA. And, with some 3 million visitors passing through the Florida Keys annually, we are beginning to be noticed. We simply couldn’t have chosen a better location for a new botanic garden. We’re thrilled that in our first eighteen months we’ve accomplished most of our 2011 and 2012 goals:


• We completed and published those most important of botanic    garden documents – our “Collections and Management Policies”    as well as our extensive Five Year Plan;

• We’ve placed some 100 informative ethnobotanical plant    display labels throughout the gardens along with over 550    accession labels;

• Our resident ethnobotanist, Rick Hederstrom, has brought our    scientific database, BG-Base completely up to date, added over    850 plant images, and continues to update our data and    images;

• We’re conducting well-attended daily ethnobotanic tours,    explaining the importance of plants and ethnobotany to our    visitors whose comments have been very positive;

• Through the dedicated efforts of our Director of Grounds,    Veronika Milar, we opened our first “themed” garden zone in    July 2012;

• Our Director of Grounds established our plant nursery and    launched our propagation program;

• Ethnobotanist & Associate Director, Rick Hederstrom, started a    successful on-line blog where he shares his daily experiences    at The Gardens with over 300 followers on Blogger and Twitter;

• We launched release 1.0 of our portable public web “app”    enabling you to “take” our gardens with you wherever you    happen to be; release 2.0 is expected by year’s end;

• Working through Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden we assisted    Monroe County school students in successfully participating in    the 2012 BGCI/Fairchild Challenge Olympic Wreath    Competition;

• Along with Monroe County school teachers we’ve begun our    2012–2013 Fairchild Challenge Satellite Partnership benefiting    all the students here in the Upper Keys;

• We’ve completed our small meetings center; held our very first    conference and begun planning our 2013 – 2014 symposia    program;

• And, perhaps most important to our continued success, we’ve    begun efforts to raise funds, secure patrons and acquire    sponsors, thus assuring our continued survival and growth as a    501c3 nonprofit entity operating in conjunction with a for-profit    resort and affording our garden visitors the unique experience    of enjoying The Gardens 24/7/365.

All in all, I’d say it’s a pretty impressive record for our first eighteen months; one that we are very proud of and thrilled to be building upon each day.

In the coming months, along with our on-going goal of continuous improvement and expansion of our 42 garden zones, we’re striving to secure a donor or sponsor to facilitate bringing our first “museum” exhibit to The Gardens; find a sponsor to fund the costs of implementing a tropical ethnobotanic living wall; and launch a 24 month effort to raise funds for a conservatory-exhibition space with expanded parking and a tropical roof garden. Pretty ambitious goals. But, in order to succeed, we believe it’s necessary to set the mark high.

As you might conclude, we’re striving to make The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort an indispensable part of the Key Largo community and tourist economy. Remember, the idea for The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort was born out of the scientific theory that “Nearly every organism on this planet depends on plants for their survival.”* It is with this awareness that The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort invites you to grow your appreciation and understanding of plants and their relevance to humanity along with us!

We invite your comments, suggestions and, of course, financial assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact me at my e-mail address below or by calling us at: 305-852-9766.

 



Joe Harris

joe

Joe C. Harris, Jr.,
Executive Director, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort
"without plants there is no life...."
gardens@konakairesort.com

on the grounds of Kona Kai Resort and Gallery
97802 Overseas Highway • Key Largo, Florida, 33037
305-852-9766
www.kkresort.com

   * March 2011, The American Journal of Botany, University of Michigan ecologist Bradley Cardinale, and other prominent researchers.


 

Botanic Gardens


March 21st, 2011

We are thrilled to be opening a new tropical botanic garden on one of the most unique islands in the USA. Key Largo is surrounded by Everglades National Park, the US National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – making Key Largo one of, if not the, most unique ecosystem in the continental USA. Could there be a better location for a new botanic garden?

We hope you will not only visit us, but will choose to stay with us as well – for there are few, if any, other botanic gardens in the world that one can experience 24 hours a day.

The living collections grown in botanic gardens, in addition to exhibiting the fundamental beauty of plants, are intentionally designed to serve research, conservation and educational needs. In this way, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai are no different. However, our focus on ethnobotany – which we define as the study of the relationship between people and plants – is somewhat unusual. Ethnobotany, primarily viewed as the study of the medicinal/economic value of plants to indigenous human cultures, has more recently been attracting people with a wide variety of academic backgrounds and interests. While many still study plants for their pharmacological, economic and/or conservation values, here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai, we are further suggesting plants should be considered people too and should be cherished and respected in the same ways!

Like people, there are many different plants. Like people, different plants like different things. Like people, plants prefer to live in different places and thrive in different places for different reasons. Like people, plants of the same species [race] don’t necessarily look the same, behave the same, or thrive the same. Like people, many plants are sexual and start from a fertilized seed. Like people, plants change as they mature and like people, plants communicate with one another. Like people, plants die from disease, accidents or just plain old age and upon their death plants leave behind resources we require for our daily lives. Like our fellow peoples, throughout their lifecycle, plants enrich and support our lives in countless ways, while simultaneously enhancing all six of our senses. Finally, just like people, plants divide and share their labor: Swedish researcher Lars Gamfeldt: "Plant communities are like a soccer team. To win championships, you need a star striker that can score goals, but you also need a cast of supporting players that can pass, defend, and goal tend. Together, the star players and supporting cast make a highly efficient team."

We humans would and could not be here without plants. If you are a plant lover, perhaps you already accept this. In the March 2011 issue of The American Journal of Botany, University of Michigan ecologist Bradley Cardinale, along with other prominent researchers, concluded: “Nearly every organism on this planet depends on plants for their survival. If species extinction compromises the process by which plants grow, then it degrades one of the key features required to sustain life on Earth.”

The idea for The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai was born with this vision in mind and it is with this awareness that The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai invites you to grow in your appreciation and understanding of plants and their relevance to our lives. Please join us for a most memorable tropical vacation. But, if you can't do that, give us just under 90 minutes of your time and join one of our guided tours - it will change the way you experience the plants on your street or in your backyard.





Joe Harris

joe

Joe C. Harris, Jr.,
Executive Director, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort
"without plants there is no life...."
gardens@konakairesort.com

on the grounds of Kona Kai Resort and Gallery
97802 Overseas Highway • Key Largo, Florida, 33037
305-852-9766
www.kkresort.com