The Florida Outdoors: Eureka Springs

By Dr. Rob Norman

On an early June morning, I attended a Sierra Club walk at Eureka Springs, led by first-time leader Karen Michalski.

Eureka Springs has a wonderful history. The amateur botanist, world traveler and Russian immigrant Albert Greenburg, in 1938, established a botanical garden with tropical plants around springs that fed a lush floodplain forest along Six Mile Creek. He later started the first tropical fish farm in Florida in the springs. In 1967, Greenburg donated the 31-acre site to Hillsborough County. Eureka Springs Park is Hillsborough County’s only botanical garden. According to my research, poet Robert Frost and other famous personalities made it a point to visit Greenberg in the years prior to World War II.

The gardens include the largest publicly owned collection of ferns in Florida, a rose garden, butterfly gardens, and an orchid room. The boardwalk winds through a lush floodplain forest of cypresses, tupelo, and towering maples.

The Tampa Bypass Canal that connects the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness preserve with McKay Bay was designed for flood protection by diverting floodwaters from the Hillsborough River. Unfortunately, construction of the 14 mile canal greatly disturbed the hydrology of the Eureka Springs, greatly limiting any flow.

During my time at the park, I noted wonderfully vibrant butterflies and dragonflies, unusual beetles, and a number of plants, trees and flowers I had never seen before. The Yesterday Today and Tomorrow Plants (Brunfelsia) is a tropical plant native to Brazil with lush green foliage accented with unique blooms that change color. The flowers bloom first as a purple or violet bloom. The next day that same bloom is pale lavender and the next day it is white. The narrow canal that curves through the park is home to several glorious flowers, including vibrant pink water lilies.

Michalski did a fine job, and when we finished we posed for a photo with the Sierra banner. All in all, it was another great day in paradise.

Come on out to Eureka Springs and enjoy The Great Florida Outdoors. Eureka Springs Park is located at 6400 Eureka Springs Rd. in Tampa. Call 744-5536.