Pinecrest Gardens is a lush paradise featuring both exotic and native tropical plants, sinuous rock formations, and winding water features. It truly lives up to its reputation as a hidden treasure and urban oasis. The garden contains three acres of tropical hardwood hammock and two acres of native cypress slough.
Remnants of the original Snapper Creek streambed wind through the eastern portion of the property. The streambed located on the garden property is the only portion of Snapper Creek that has not been altered by development. The site features Karst and Pinnacle rock formations, formed by the dissolution of bedrock by subterranean drainage. The bedrock is porous oolitic limestone and has been used extensively as a building material at the site. The eastern section of the Gardens contains numerous small caves, fissures and dramatic cliff overhangs. Solution holes, caused by erosion of the stone by both surface and subterranean water flow, contain water all year long and support fish, turtles, blue crabs, and other wildlife. One solution hole is estimated to be 30,000 years old.
The northeastern portion of Pinecrest Gardens features a one-acre cypress slough with bald cypress, a deciduous conifer, along with cypress knees, and an undergrowth of ferns. The cypress hammock was once part of the largest cypress forest in South Florida. At one time, before the rapid urbanization of eastern Miami, it was connected to the Big Cypress Swamp, located 50 miles west of Miami. Until Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the slough featured a number of trees over 100 feet tall. Unfortunately, about 60% of the tall trees were lost due to the storm. After the hurricane, seedlings began to naturally appear in the slough, which is a rarity. Many survived and have reached heights of around 20 feet.
A rock ridge shelf indicates a transition between the cypress and a hammock of hardwood trees to the southwest. The tropical hardwood hammock, consisting of live oak covers 3.3 acres. Pinecrest Gardens features a diverse selection of trees, including a Talipot Palm, native to India and Sri Lanka, and is one of the largest palm species in the world. In 2015 one of the two Talipot Palm on the property (documented as the largest living Talipot Palm in the United States) produced its flower marking the final of the tree's life. Since flowering, the palm has finished its life cycle and its seeds have been auctioned to botanical gardens across the United States. The tree on this site was documented as the largest living Talipot Palm in the United States. Since flowering, the palm has finished its life cycle. Offspring of the original plant will be replanted on site. As the park was expanded, native pine trees were cleared from the western portion of the site and replaced with palms, figs, rubber trees, and banana plants. A Banyan tree was planted near the center of the site in 1947 to help fill in the cleared areas. The Banyan, a type of fig tree, develops prop roots that extend vertically down from its horizontal branches. Today, the signature Banyan Tree at the center of the property has spread to cover over 3/4 of an acre.
In addition to the trees listed above, the site features more than 1,000 varieties of rare exotic and tropical plants, including many types of ferns, fig trees, orchids, hibiscus, and other flowering plants. Other notable trees include a 100-year-old Cocoplum, a champion Pond Apple, and a venerable Sausage Tree. An open grassy meadow, with diverse plantings around its perimeter, is situated near the center of the site. A terraced succulent garden was developed in the 1960s and is located between Swan Lake and the Meadow. Pinecrest Gardens is also home to a diverse desert gardens and features specimen plants imported from Mexico.
The diverse elements of the gardens are accessed via meandering curved pathways that link all of the buildings and major structures. Parts of the path are paved with brick laid in decorative patterns. The brick paving is located in the western portion of the site in areas to the north and south of the Meadow. Some areas feature mosaics made from broken or cut brick pieces. The inlaid patterns feature leaves, flowers, flamingoes, snails, and various other shapes. The combination of forested areas, riverine landscapes, theme gardens, desert gardens, and open vistas make Pinecrest Gardens a unique visitor experience for every age and interest.
In 2018 a unique opportunity arose to prevent the unintentional escape of an environmentally harmful fish species from Pinecrest Gardens to our waterways. For more information about the cooperative effort of Pinecrest Gardens, the United States Geological Survey, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, please see the Bay Snook removal document.