Bananas are berries, and strawberries are not.
Palm trees are a type of grass.
These are just some of the facts that visitors learned at the third annual Nature Talks and Walks for Earth Day event at Longboat Island Chapel on April 22.
There were several exhibitors and bay walks at the Friendship Garden followed by a panel discussion of environmental and public health sustainability at 1:30 p.m.
“The Longboat Island Chapel and Rotary Club of Longboat Key sponsored the event, and I organized the panel. This was an environmental summit to highlight remarkable institutions and organizations here,” said Jeffrey H. Driver, organizer and president of the Rotary Club. “This event has created synergy around the dialogue in raising funds to target resources for educational outreach.”
People mingled and stopped at various exhibits to learn about local organizations committed to helping the community and environment. Among them were the Longboat Key Garden Club, Rotary Club of Longboat Key, Manatee County’s Clerk Department of Historical Resources, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Sarasota Bay Watch, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Save our Seabirds, and Longboat Key Turtle Watch.
“This event was created three years ago to share our beautiful grounds with the community. We have five acres of land and a large Friendship Garden. We wanted people to go through it in a guided fashion and have an educational walk,” said Ingrid McClellan, member of the church and grounds chair.
Educational walks along the bay started at 11 a.m. and were held throughout the day. The walks were led by Ross Johnston, manager of visitor engagement at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
During the presentation, Johnston educated visitors about orchids, palm trees and the surprising behavior of mangroves.
“Mangroves are viviparous, which means they “birth” live young, like most mammals. They produce young that are attached to themselves and the young will drop off when they become “teenagers,” said Johnston.
The presentation covered various fruits and visitors gasped as they learned that all figs harbor wasps inside, technically preventing figs from being considered vegan.
As people followed the path around Friendship Garden, Save our Seabirds educated visitors about the importance of rescuing and saving injured birds.
“We get about 5,000 phone calls a year, and of those, 1,200 (birds) are rescued. If we don’t do this, there would be no one to help them,” said Heather Sellers, a volunteer rescuer.
As visitors made their way through the Friendship Garden, they learned about all the work Longboat Key Turtle Watch has done for over 50 years.
“Sea turtles lay approximately 100 eggs and the temperature of the sand determines the sex of the turtles. If the sand is cool, the hatchlings will be males and if the sand is hot the hatchlings will be females,” said Bridgette Clark, permitted volunteer.
Clark also pointed out that raccoons are a major problem for sea turtles because raccoons will listen for the noises the hatchlings make and try to eat them.
“What we are doing, from the chapel’s perspective, is educating the community on how to be the best stewards of God’s creation. What better way to do that than on Earth Day,” said McClellan.