The Colorful Florida Summer

I feel sorry for the “snowbirds” who leave Florida when it’s really starting to heat up.  These are the people who go back “up North” after the Easter/Passover holidays and don’t return until around Thanksgiving.  I think they are missing some of the best things that Florida has to offer during the summer. 

My wife, Meryl, always describes South Florida summers as “oppressive.”  Nevertheless, we adjust to the heat and humidity by going for our early morning walks even before sunrise.  If we’re lucky, we’ll begin when it’s only around 75 degrees but within the hour, you can feel the temperature rising.  When you finally return home and feel that comforting blast of air conditioning, you experience a sense of relief! 

On our walks during the month of May, we began to see the beginning of nature’s finest color display.  The frangipani trees go from bare antler-like branches to a few terminal yellow flowers and eventually become full of bright yellow and white blooms.  If you’re lucky, the ground beneath them is like a colorful carpet of fallen blooms especially after a heavy rain. 

The branches of the frangipani tree with
some early blooms at their ends
Multiple blooms of the frangipani flowers

But the best demonstration of color is yet to come!  We’re now just getting the early blooming of the king of flowering trees, Delonix regia, known here in Florida as the Royal Poinciana. When my kids were young, I can even remember driving them around just so that we could find the best and brightest example of this magnificent tree.

The Royal Poinciana begins its show with just a few buds opening early in mid-May on the ends of some of the branches.  Within a month the tree is covered with large flowers reaching toward the bright blue sky above.

In the past, I can remember arguments about whether the flowers are red-orange or orange-red, as if we’re trying to match the color with the names of the Crayola crayons from childhood.  In reality, the shades of red and orange do vary from one tree to another.  Supposedly due to the soil conditions, the color of the large flowers is indisputably brilliant! 

The complex individual flower

The Royal Poinciana originally comes from Madagascar, the place where many plant and animal species developed in isolation ever since the island separated from the African continent.  It is popular as a flowering shade tree and it is easily cultivated throughout warm climates.  It goes by many different names, all attesting to its bright coloration.

In Australia it is known as the flame tree; in other English-speaking countries it is known as the flamboyant tree or flame of the forest tree.  In India and Pakistan, it is known as the peacock flower tree.

Is it red-orange or orange-red?

Even after living in Florida for more than 40 years, I still get excited at the end of May when just a few trees are showing their early bloom.  When in past years, my wife and I have been traveling during the month of June, I felt bad that I would miss out on the Royal Poinciana bloom. 

It’s definitely worth traveling around South Florida to see these amazing specimens.  It makes staying here in the summer an exciting visual experience.

November 30: End of “Summer”

Today is November 30, 2020 and it’s the end of the season.

It is actually the end of many things here in South Florida,

I’m in Palm Beach County, the big blue county on the Atlantic side near the bottom

where December 1 is the start of the winter dry season. After all, Thanksgiving is over and the Holiday decorations are quickly appearing.  Even though an occasional hurricane may slip through during December, we can most likely rule out any devastating storms until next June when the hurricane season will once again begin.

During this Year of the Pandemic, we have had a very long summer. Besides the often-heard complaint that every day runs into the next, the higher than normal temperatures that we have endured since late March have made us feel as if the summer lasted forever!  Except for a few days in the past month, it was rare that it didn’t reach at least 80 degrees since the Pandemic began. 

In South Florida, that means that by about 9 or 10 am, the temperature quickly rises into the 80s and remains so for the rest of the day.  When the occasional tropical afternoon thundershower rolls in around 4-5 pm, we sometimes enjoy a brief respite from the heat.  At dinner time outside on our patio, the decrease of a couple of degrees makes a very noticeable difference.  

In the past few days, we have been teased by some early morning cooler temperatures.  One day as we left our house for our daily sunrise walks,

it had even dropped down to 68 degrees!  We dressed in long pants and long-sleeve shirts for the occasion and I vowed to complain the whole time about what we call a cold snap. 

Old timers used to say that you know it’s cold in Florida when you have to tell your kids to put on their shoes to get the morning newspaper from the driveway.  Using that expression dates you since almost everyone receives their “newspapers” online, and young people wouldn’t even understand what you’re trying to say.  This is definitely barefoot country where wearing sandals may be considered “dressed up.”  

This afternoon, in celebration of the end of the tropical hurricane season, we are going to experience a cold front moving in from the North.  Temperatures will plummet down into the 50s!  The local weather report is warning us with words like “chilly.”

Weather Forecast: Cold Front Moves Through Overnight – Temperatures Down to the low 50s

That’s how I will describe it and I will proudly complain about it like any good almost-native Floridian.  I definitely fall into the group for whom anything below 60 degrees feels downright cold and in need of footwarmers. 

We are prepared for the yearly December weather change.  We have already shaken the dust off our warm sweaters and we look forward to wearing long pants for a few days.  Soon after, however, the breezes from the still-warm Atlantic will return us to our usual Florida reality where the days feature temperatures that we enjoy the most, the mid-70s with low humidity.   That’s a far cry from the low 90s with 80% humidity that we’ve put up with for the last 7-8 months. 

No, I am definitely not complaining.  I love the Florida weather.  I will live with the heat and humidity any day in order not to have to shovel snow or suffer through the cold, dreary gray days in the 40s that I remember from my childhood.   I will gladly forfeit the “change of seasons” that our snowbird friends love to brag about.  For me, I will continue to get up every morning before the sun rises just to be able to observe nature at its colorful best while the conditions are almost consistently ideal.    

A typical Florida early morning sky