A walk through the Montgomery Palmetum in Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden makes visitors feel as if they've entered a tropical paradise. This collection of palms from all over the globe is not only beautiful, it's also recognized as one of the most important palm collections in the world, with seven hundred species of rare and endangered palms in a eighty-three-acre area. In fact, there are more endangered species of palms in this garden than in all other botanical gardens combined.
The Fairchild Tropical Garden is named for Dr. David Fairchild, a botanist who traveled the world searching for tropical plants to introduce to the United States. When he moved to Miami in 1935, Fairchild shared his knowledge and love of tropical plants with Colonel Robert Montgomery, who founded the botanical garden and named it after his friend. Opened to the public in 1938, the garden was later deeded in large part to Miami-Dade County.
One of Fairchild's goals was to find plants that might benefit society in some way. Palms were an ideal choice, since they are valued not only for their beauty, but also for the many ways the trees can be used to make food, clothing and furniture. Dried palm leaves are used to make rope, brooms, carpets, fishing nets, and even dinnerware. The wax from palms native to Brazil has been used in cosmetics and polish for cars and furniture. Those of us with a sweet tooth should definitely appreciate its value: Its melting temperature is close to human body temperature, thereby allowing popular candies to melt in our mouths, not in our hands.
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