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Nestled in a quiet area of Winter Park, a city just north of Orlando, is Mead Botanical Gardens. When I first visited this gem in 2015, I immediately knew I wanted to spend more time here, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2017, when I lived a little closer, that I went back for my second visit.

When summer rolled around a few months later and I started to avoid the crazy crowds and heat at Disney World, my new go-to spot on weekend mornings became Mead Gardens. I got there early in the morning and usually had the gardens completely to myself when I arrived.

Mead Gardens is a lovely place to walk around and enjoy being immersed in nature. It was also a great place to practice taking nature photos. This is one of the first places I had a chance to use my DSLR after I bought it several years ago, and last year it became the place where I would further develop my photography skills.

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As I continued to take pictures of the nature at Mead Gardens, I also started to develop an interest in identifying some of the species I encountered. I already had a little background in entomology, from my excellent high school biology teacher and from rekindling that interest as an adult, but I started to wonder about some of the plants as well. I enjoyed going home to research those plants after a morning of taking photos.

There were some plants that I never ended up identifying.

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But there were many other plants that I was pretty certain on the identifications. Such as the lesser daisy fleabane . . .

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. . . the rose flake hibiscus . . .

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. . . friendship sage . . .

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. . . the white frangipani . . .

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. . . the Chinese lanterns . . .

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. . . zigzag spiderwort . . .

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. . . Egyptian starcluster . . .

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. . . and the powderpuff tree.

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Of course, if you look even closer, you’ll find plenty of bugs scurrying and buzzing around the plants. I was surprised at how many large milkweed bugs I encountered throughout the gardens on various visits.

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Bees can also be found in every section of the garden.

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The garden caters well to many types of butterflies, too, with monarchs and swallowtails making regular appearances.

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But the critter that is most abundant at Mead Gardens is the eastern lubber grasshopper. You might see them in their nymph phase.

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Or you might encounter them as adults. You’ll find them eating, mating, molting, and POOPING ON EVERYTHING.

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Of course, mosquitoes are also prevalent throughout the gardens, so be sure to come equipped with some lemon eucalyptus spray, and you’ll be good to go. If you work up an appetite after walking around the gardens on a weekend morning, the nearby Ethos Vegan Kitchen has an amazing stack of pancakes and some life-changing sausage gravy biscuits!

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Say hello to the lubbers for me!

Love, Elizabeth

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