Article & Photo by Lynda La Rocca
On June 6th, 7th and 8th, 2015 The Tropical Flowering Tree Society had the pleasure of hosting the 78th Royal Poinciana Fiesta. This historic celebration began in 1937 to celebrate the blooming of the magnificent Delonix regia (Royal Poinciana).. For the past 15 years TFTS has carried on this tradition.
On Saturday June 6th some of our members braved the heat, to assist TREEmendous Miami in planting trees along Miller Road in South Miami. Miami Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez sponsored this planting.
TFTS President and founding member, Stephen Pearson, President of TREEmendous Miami and Director of the Gifford Arboretum at the University of Miami, has led the charge to beautify the roads, parks and highways of Miami Dade County. Larry Schokman, TFTS founding member, Vice President of TFTS and a member of the TREEmendous Miami Board shared his knowledge about the best way to plant and mulch trees. Volunteers from both groups made a quick job of getting the trees planted and mulched. Not an easy job in Miami’s rocky substrate. Penny Lambeth and Britt Steinhardt made sure they were drinking water and eating energy snacks.
Sunday June 7th Members and friends of TFTS enjoyed The Royal Poinciana Trolley Tour and a docent led walking tour of The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanic Garden, home of David and Marion Fairchild and later Edward and Kay Sweeney.
Stephen Pearson and Larry Schokman, plan the route, a different one every year. Stephen narrated the tour giving us interesting facts about the trees and Miami lore. We saw some of the best Royal Poincianas in the area, as well as other beautiful flowering trees like the Cassia javanica (Pink Cassia) the Bulnesia arborea (Verawood) and the yellow Cassia fistula (Golden Shower Tree) that have put on a spectacular show this year. Back at The Kampong, after a narrated walk through the garden with Stephen, everyone enjoyed cake and our special Royal Poinciana Punch.
Monday evening, June 8th, we gathered at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where our guests were treated to Tram tours with Volunteer Tom Abell. Joe Donato on the saxophone and Brian Murphy on keyboard entertained us with great jazz including the signature song, “Poinciana” (music by Nat Simon Lyrics by Buddy Bernier). Lisa Remeny, internationally known Coconut Grove artist, offered her tropical paintings and cards to our visitors.
Lisa’s Poincianas are magical and added a very special touch to our Fiesta. Our President , Stephen Pearson, greeted our members and guests and gave us a history of the Poinciana Fiesta. Every year our Royal Poinciana Scholarship Committee works very hard to choose three exceptional young ladies to become Queen and Princesses of the Royal Poinciana Fiesta. Our committee was led by Dr Ida McMillan, who has devoted many hours to sending out letters and applications to schools. Dr Mc Millan and committee members Cindy Bobson, Carol Vanoorbeeck, Joan Stoltz and Lynda La Rocca, read over 45 applications and had a difficult task picking three candidates from a very talented group. Our Royal Poinciana Queen this year is Gemma Sahwell, graduate of Miami Beach Senior High, who will be attending Barnard College, Tiffany Chen, Princess, graduate of Palmetto High School, who will attend Purdue University and Daniela Valero, Princess, graduate of Southwest Miami Senior High, who will attend the University of Florida. Along with the scholarship check, each girl received a beautiful watercolor print by talented local artist Diane Lary. Congratulations to all three young women, we wish them well as they continue their education. We invite them to visit us each year.
I, Lynda la Rocca, was surprised and honored to receive this year’s Larry Schokman Book Award. This award honored my “untiring efforts to ‘Color The Horizon’, promoting flowering trees, shrubs and vines in Miami Dade County.” What a pleasure! I received a lovely book “ Remains of a Rainbow” Rare Plants and Animals of Hawaii as well as a beautiful lei made of 100 plumeria, crafted by my friend Hetty Ford of the Naples Botanic Garden. What an intoxicating perfume!
Thank you to all who have made this year’s Royal Poinciana Fiesta a success. Thanks to Ann Schmidt and the staff and docents of The Kampong of the NTBG, Arielle Simon and the staff of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Thank you TREEmendous Miami and all the volunteers who come out each year to help “Color the Horizon”. Thank you Ida McMillan for devoting your time and energy to the Scholarship Program. Thanks to those who have contributed to this fund. Thanks Carol Vannoorbeeck for taking Trolley Tour reservation phone calls at all hours. Thanks Yonna, Victoria and Peter for taking care of the food and beverages. Thank you to all who helped to make this a successful celebration of “Poinciana….its lovely perfume fills the air” from the lyrics by Buddy Bernier.
A special thank you to Stephen Pearson and the TFTS Board.