Wrapped in a dense blanket of mosquitoes, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park is one of the United States’ most significant botanical treasures.
Fees: $2.50 per person, plus $2 per person for tour
Open: Thu-Mon 8-5. Tours available December-April at 10 and 2 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Named after its most significant feature, this virgin tropical forest is home to more than a thousand lignum vitae trees. Blooming with distinctive deep blue flowers each spring, they are credited with amazing medicinal properties. Their branches criss-cross each other, and their wood weighs 80 pounds per cubic foot. It’s one of the densest woods on earth, and it sinks rather than floats.
To explore the whole island on foot, you’ll need to join a guided tour. Each trip begins at the Matheson House, a historic cottage established by William J. Matheson. Matheson bought the island in 1919 and left caretakers here to watch over the forest. Visitors otherwise are welcome to stop in and check out the historic displays in the cottage, now a visitor center, and the area surrounding the cottage.
Visible from US 1, the park is accessible only by boat. Check at Robbie’s Marina at MM 78.5 to coordinate a trip with the guided tours offered on the island. Bring your best mosquito gear – full body protection recommended – since this island, unlike the ones along US 1, is not sprayed for mosquitoes.