One of the things on our "must do" list for the Corpus Christi area was the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. We went primarily for the birding but discovered much, much more. Beautiful roses in full bloom (in January!!), reptiles, edible landscaping, great walking trails, an arid garden filled with different specimens of cacti, and all manner of birds ranging from the exotic parrots (in cages) to woodland and wetland dwellers. It was much better than we'd expected!
But first things first: breakfast! Since we knew we had a busy day ahead, we ate breakfast at La Palma Mexican restaurant on the way. This place is very authentic, and except for the fact that English is spoken, makes us feel as if we're right back in Mexico. The reasonable prices made us feel like we were in Mexico too: for $4.25 each, we got HUGE plates of eggs rancheros, refried beans, potatoes, and delicious homemade flour tortillas. We rolled outta there with bellies full enough to last most of the day!
Now, onto the gardens!
First up were some beautiful, colorful tropical birds. I would much rather see them in the wild than in captivity, but they are popular in the pet trade and all these guys were donated by individuals and are safe and well taken care of here. They were all very interested in us and several said "hel-lo"! Most made quite a racket in their excitement at being visited since no one else was around -- we arrived at the gardens right at the opening time of 9 am so had it to ourselves at this point.
The next area we toured was the rose garden. Absolutely stunning!
I took photos of quite a few individual roses and created a slideshow below if you'd like to check these out.
Next up as we strolled through the gardens was the "Sensory Garden", which includes displays to tickle all the senses. There are herbs and edible landscaping, sculptures, a huge tortoise, and a unique tree house for the kiddies built with a portion of a 400-year old oak tree. Wow!
There wasn't a lot going on in the Hummingbird Garden today, though I bet most of the year it's really buzzing with life.
We spent quite a bit of time along the nature trail and at the various lookout shelters along the way. And yes, we did see plenty of birds! I didn't realize this until getting home and reading the brochure, but this nature trail winds through the only native forest in Corpus Christi.
I got a kick of out of the Northern Pintails, very pretty ducks that seem to spend about 75% of their time upside-down. This is how it feeds, head down and butt up, with its little legs working hard to help it hold its position. It was hard for Barry to get a shot where they weren't all upside down like this, and they just made me laugh.
Here is what they look like right side up.
On the way to the "Palapa Grande" for some more waterfowl viewing, there were two attractive bronze sculptures created by Kent Ullberg.
The rustic palapa was pretty but not as waterproof as the ones we were used to in Belize, roofed in dried palm leaves. Good thing it wasn't raining!
Next up was the "Wetlands Awareness Boardwalk", which took us to a natural wetlands area for yet more birding opportunities.
Last up was the Arid Garden, which was filled with lots of cacti and other related plants that I can't even begin to tell you the names of, being an east coast gal. They're mostly sharp, thorny, and prickly, though, so I don't get too close! Wish we'd had sunnier skies as they would have looked prettier against brilliant blue. Oh well....
Although we didn't take photos, there is also a small inside area with native lizards (including a HUGE iguana who also has a large cage outdoors), turtles, and snakes. And we ran out of time and energy so didn't even make it into the butterfly or orchid houses -- hopefully another time. We could have spent most of the day here if we'd known how much there was to see. It would be great to come back at a different time of year to see hummingbirds and other summer residents.
We can definitely recommend a visit to the Botanical Gardens if you're in the Corpus Christi area. The entry fee was $7 per person with discounts for children and seniors. Well worth it!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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