The Biscayne Times

Aug 11th
A Tree Garden of Global Exotics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
April 2020

Color enriches the Phillipe Derose linear park

PParkPatrol_1hilippe Derose International Flowering Tree Garden is a big name for a 2.8-acre park. It’s only about 60 feet across but runs eight blocks on the NE 13th Avenue medians from 151st to 159th Street in the Oak Grove neighborhood of North Miami Beach.

A three-minute YouTube video of the park’s 2015 dedication erroneously identifies Carl Lewis, director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, as one of the ceremony’s speakers.

“Lewis,” turns out to be Carlos Rivero, the former NMB city arborist and planner, who described the park as “probably the most important rare flowering tree collection in Dade County outside of Fairchild Tropical Garden. There are trees from Madagascar, from the Bahamas, from Hong Kong, from Mexico, from the Philippines, from the native American subtropics, from Suriname, Brazil, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, mainland Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and lots of other places.”

ParkPatrol_2In fact, it was the Tropical Flowering Tree Society (TFTS), not Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, that was involved with the park, according to arborist Robert Bobson, who says he designed the garden. Fellow Society members provided the trees, many of them rare.

Of the 245 trees planted, 197 trees of 40 different species were sold by the Society to the city, and the rest were donated. But this was way back in 2003, when the Tropical Flowering Tree Society was approached with the beautification project by North Miami Beach.

“This may be the last great roundup of worldwide rare trees for a public park in Miami-Dade,” says Bobson. “The emphasis was on showy, beautiful flowering trees, and not native plants.” North Miami Beach purchased the trees from TFTS members for $15,135, way under budget.

Most of the blocks showcased a ylang-ylang tree (Cananga odorata), native to India. The fragrant yellow flowers of the ylang-ylang are used to create Chanel No. 5 perfume, which are steamed for the essential oil.

ParkPatrol_3No name was given to the park back then, but Bobson was told that the medians would become a linear park. Its winding concrete walkways were in place in 2003. These paths connect one block with the next, allowing for continuous walking and biking. At both ends of most blocks, the walkway attractively splits around a large tree and benches provide resting spots along the route.

North Miami Beach city manager Esmond Scott tracked down Carlos Rivero, the city’s retired arborist, in Mexico for some answers to BT questions regarding the park’s trees. In an e-mail, Rivero confirms that the tree cost was minimal and paid for through the annual city budget’s “Purchase of Trees” line item.

He recalls that the labor of planting and maintaining the trees was done in-house at what were then known as the “13th Avenue Medians.” The project’s walkways and decorative vintage streetlamps “turned these medians into a neighborhood asset,” he writes, and the beautification was completed in 2004. Trash and recycle bins help to maintain cleanliness.

ParkPatrol_4According to a 2014 Miami Herald article, the 20-plus-year city arborist and acting city planner grew some of North Miami Beach’s mature mahogany, oak, and royal poinciana trees from seedlings in his own backyard that were then nurtured at the city’s nursery before replanting.

Sadly, of the original 245 trees, only 94 can be counted in the Philippe Derose International Flowering Tree Garden today -- a mere third of the original plantings survive.

Bobson and his wife Cindy, also of TFTS, attest to the park’s once-spectacular color. City manager Scott remembers a lot of tree damage in the park from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but some new trees were planted for the 2015 dedication. Only minimal damage occurred during Hurricane Irma in 2017. None of the fragrant ylang-ylang trees survived.

The Trust for Public Land recognizes 31 parks in North Miami Beach, where 91 percent of the residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park and seven percent of the city’s public land is used for parks and recreation. Philippe Derose International Flowering Tree Garden serves 8512 residents living within a ten-minute walk.

ParkPatrol_5The linear park is named for 12-year North Miami Beach councilman Philippe Derose. He was the first Haitian American elected to public office in the United States (1993 El Portal Councilman), the first Haitian-American mayor in the nation (2000 El Portal), and the first Haitian American elected to office in North Miami Beach (2003). North Miami Beach is home to 20 percent of the U.S. Haitian population.

Each block of the Philippe Derose International Flowering Tree Garden has from 8 to 17 trees; back in 2003, blocks were abloom with 15 to 34 trees. Identifying them is a challenge as horticulture ID markers are not in place.

Three of the original ten African tulip trees (Spathodea campanulata) remain, with dazzling red-orange blooms. The block from 157th to 158th Street has a handsome grouping of seven silk floss trees ( Chorisia speciosa) -- 22 were planted in 2003. This thorny species has magenta flowers and is native to tropical and subtropical forests in South America. Bobson says February through April is the optimum time for viewing the blossoming trees.

Five royal poincianas (Delonix regia) are planted on five of the park’s blocks. The Madagascar native blooms with large red flowers twice a year. Several silver trumpet trees (Tabebuia caraiba) are now aflame in yellow blossoms. The crooked-trunked tree is native to South America. A frangipani (Plumeria pudica) is growing on the 158th to 159th Street block and is native to Central and South America. It’s not in bloom now, but the species has yellow-and-white flowers. Some of the six original lacebark trees (Brachychiton discolor) can still be found. This Australian rainforest tree has pink flowers. In late February this year, a red cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), a native of India and Southeast Asia, was magnificent to see. There are also various palms and huge oak and mahogany trees.

Communities needing beautification with color can contact Robert Bobson of the Tropical Flowering Tree Society at 305-992-8593.



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Philippe Derose International Flowering Tree Garden
NE 13th Avenue from 151st to 159th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33162

Park Rating
palm-1 palm-1 palm-1 palm-05 palm-05

Hours: Always open
Picnic tables: No
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: No
Walking path: Yes
Benches: Yes
Night lighting: Yes
Flowering trees: Yes
Playground: No


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