If you haven’t seen the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden yet, now is the time — it’s GORGEOUS!

Misha McRae, executive director of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s going on in the garden.

With all the rain we’ve had, the garden has been growing incredibly well and three fresh water ponds exist within the grounds.

McRae said, “We are the only site south of Florida City that actually has fresh, sweet rainwater. That is the old Stock Island pond you see when you drive into the garden, and then we also have Desbiens pond, which is part of the aquifer, much like the Geiger Key and the Blue Hole and then a lot of people don’t realize that in what we call the hammock area, our further east north section is a marshland that much like Desbiens pond when we have our high tides and king tides, it floods. But then don’t forget to we had the kayak landing too. So you know, we’ve got waterfront property at the Botanical Garden.”

This is the second year of the garden’s 99 year lease.

McRae said, “We are so excited about that. I give kudos to the city of Key West and our citizens for not only realizing the importance of the Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, but also making a statement worldwide that Key West does care about conservation. We do care about the environment and protecting it, so thank you.”

Volunteers are always needed.

McRae said, “Calling all weed warriors! I’m bragging and celebrating all the rain we’re having but guess what comes with the rain? We’re looking for those individuals that are willing to help us out on Wednesdays and Saturdays from nine to noon. Tackle the weeds, help our native plants, help the nursery grow and then do routine maintenance in the botanical garden itself. It’s a great way to breathe the outdoors. It’s also fun to play in the dirt. Proven true. I tell everyone, it’s a Zen thing, you get into a rhythm and you help the plants go through and you pull them weeds and you can name a few of them if you need to. So it’s very therapeutic.”

An education assistant position is still needed.

McRae said, “We are looking for that special individual that’s conservation, environmentally minded, great with kids, loves working with kids, wants to make a statement, and actually make an impact on our future generation. Our education program has been going on since 2006. Currently we reach from Key West all the way up to Marathon now. We do free field trips, we go to the classrooms, we participate in companion and community services. We do a lot of stuff, even the new art program that’s not being funded by the state anymore, we are continuing these efforts to help our children achieve their academic success in their future.”

Cutbacks at the state level have affected the garden for about $36,000.

McRae said, “I know everyone else in the arts and cultures are feeling the disappointment in our state government, but also the impact that it’s going to provide to the services that we try to provide to our community.”

Art in the Garden, the 14th annual event, is continuing through July 31.

McRae said, “I’m very excited that we are able to do it again this year because it’s part of last year’s grant cycle, so it was partially funded. But it’s really an opportunity. It’s twofold. Our local artists get an opportunity to be creative. They make sculptures out of recycled, repurposed, reused and natural materials, so nothing bought from Home Depot, and make art out of it and we put it up throughout the garden. This year there’s 30 different entries for everyone to come in and witness and participate and be amazed, not only the creativity, but how much nature is art because all the art pieces are really background by the botanical garden. It’s a unique experience. It’s a fun outdoor experience. And it really sends a message that we need to recycle more. It’s from 10 to 4 every day, seven days a week through July 31. Please come out and see us.”

Help is also needed to build a new education center in the garden.

McRae said, “We’re getting close now. We’ve already put out requests for proposals, we need to build a new education office. We bring in anywhere from 3400 to 3500 kids a year into the garden. Our education program is in an old trailer that was brought into the garden in 2006. It was a contractor trailer that has just outlived itself. They desperately need a new office classroom, the whole setup to bring them into the next decade. We are looking for those future minded individuals that really care about the students and their future and helping the education programs to help us build this education department building that will be one to be proud of, but also fulfill the function and the mission of the Botanical Garden to be able to offer free field trips to every student in Monroe County. It’s a big goal, but it’s a doable goal and we’re looking for all of Key West and the Keys to help us do it. Become a volunteer. Membership is the best way to support us because anytime you sign on the line it is a benefit for the garden, and it is a tax deductible donation. I wanted to point out, on our website, when you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage, there’s my face, there’s my email address, there’s my phone number. Give me a call if you want to know how you can get more involved or how you want to get involved, please reach out. I’d be happy to talk with you. The garden is a great community center. It has the prospect of the future in it and definitely needs everyone’s input to help us to keep it growing.”

For more information, click here:  https://www.keywest.garden/