The Botanical Gardens of La Florida

Can’t get enough of the beautiful La Florida blossoms? Neither can we. With the warmest weather of the year nigh upon us, we’re taking to the open road, bound for Florida to visit some of the state’s many botanical gardens. Come join us!

f-2013-lafloridaFounded in 1938 by a group of horticulturists that included famed plant hunter David Fairchild, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is one of the premier conservation and educational botanic gardens in the world. Located in Coral Gables, Fairchild features meandering paths surrounded by an astounding collection of tropical plants.

The Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo boasts 30 acres of cultivated gardens that feature Florida native and Florida-friendly plants. Its 90 acres of natural landscapes are home to more than 150 types of animals.

Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens maintains a plant collection of more than 20,000 specimens on its 13-acres. The elegant Selby Mansion houses a museum, and one of its eight greenhouses includes a conservatory where unusual flora can be seen all year.

The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is home to many endangered and threatened tropical flora and fauna. The forest has two of the last remaining fresh water ponds in the Keys and is a major stopping point for migrating neo-tropical birds. It is also home to many rare birds.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 62-acre collection located in Gainesville. “Kanapaha” is derived from the Timucua Indian words for “palmetto leaf” and “house,” which refer to the thatched dwellings of the small village that once was located on nearby Lake Kanapaha. Among the gardens’ collection are the state’s largest public display of bamboos and the largest herb garden in the Southeast.

McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a historic Florida landmark. It is famous for its 18-acre subtropical jungle hammock, which also features several restored architectural treasures.

Be sure to take some La Florida cards and stamps with you on your travels this summer. Click the image for details.

If you like a little elegance with your garden, Eden Gardens State Park, located in Santa Rosa Beach on the Florida Panhandle, might be just the thing for you. The focal point is a beautifully renovated, two-story house surrounded by moss-draped live oaks and ornamental gardens where camellias and azaleas abound. The park also has a heritage rose garden, butterfly garden, and reflection pond.

Roses grace the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando—home to the largest rose garden in the state. The 50-acre garden also has palms, cycads, azaleas, bromeliads, tropical philodendrons, and a variety of flowering trees, among many other tropical and semi-tropical plants.

Each garden’s website includes additional information on plants, events, and classes, and most include a “what’s in bloom” feature so that you can time your visit just right. Several of the gardens are also dog friendly! (Check the websites for more information on visiting with your pet.) Find other Florida gardens here.

Share the joy these gardens bring by using the lovely La Florida stamps on letters and cards to your friends and loved ones. The four La Florida Forever® stamps were issued April 3, 2013, in St. Augustine, Florida. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate, which is currently 46 cents.

La Florida Stamps Join Historic Museum Collection

Last month, the Historical Museum in Plantation, Florida, welcomed members of the local community to an open house in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida.

Museum staff turned out in period costumes, and the public, too, was encouraged to wear something distinctive of Florida during the last 500 years. Flip flops and bnews17s3-largeustles, anyone? Retired USPS Operations Support Specialist John Feeney and his wife Cathy arrived dressed as Ponce de León and the “First Lady of Florida,” respectively. Their son, Robert, showed up dressed as a ship’s navigator. All three mingled among other costumed museum members and the standing-room only crowd of spectators.

The highlight of the festivities was the presentation of an enlargement of the four La Florida stamps released on April 3 in St. Augustine. Fort Lauderdale Customer Service Operations Manager Alex Sepulveda gave a brief history lesson on the discovery of Florida and then presented the enlargement to museum officials.

The enlargement has now been added to the museum’s wonderful “Florida: 500 Years of History” exhibition on display through October 26, 2013. The exhibition also includes memorabilia and photographs, flags, postcards (yay!), and other artifacts and ephemera from Florida’s 500-year history. Especially worthwhile is the display of items from the era of the conquistador.

Send a note about your summer travels to your friends and loved ones using the brand-new La Florida stamps and matching note cards. Click the image for details.

The lovely La Florida stamps have been issued as Forever® stamps. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) You can find them online, by calling (), or at your local Post Office.

Traveling the Old Florida Heritage Highway

LaFlorida-Forever-pane-BGv2It’s amazing to think that 500 years ago, Ponce de León stepped ashore on land that became the state of Florida. Things have certainly changed since then! Now when people think of Florida, they might picture laid-back Key West, the colonial architecture of St. Augustine, or the hustle and bustle of Miami and Tampa. Few imagine a forested and pastoral countryside. But that is exactly what can be found along Scenic U.S. 441, the Old Florida Heritage Highway.

The unique landscape of the area has inspired naturalists, writers, and painters for centuries, including William Bartram, America’s first naturalist, who visited the area in 1774. Travelers can still visit this well-preserved area to see more of Florida’s natural, scenic, recreational, historic, and cultural heritage.

Fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Yearling can visit Majorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park in Cross Creek, a few miles from Gainesville. Visitors will experience 1930s Florida farm life at Rawlings’s home, which has been restored and preserved as it was when she lived here.

Perfect for framing, this colorful 14½ x 36¼ -inch press sheet with die-cuts contains 10 sheets of 16 La Florida (Forever®) stamps. Click the image for details.

One of the jewels of the area is Micanopy, the oldest inland town in the state. Micanopy is a former Seminole Indian town settled in 1821 as Wanton’s town. Today, the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its authentic Old Florida ambiance, the movies Cross Creek and Doc Hollywood were both filmed there.

In 1971, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park became the state’s first preserve and is now a National Nature Landmark. The preserve’s habitats are home to alligators, bison, horses, and more than 270 species of birds. The observation tower at the visitor center offers a panoramic view of the preserve. Visitors can also hike, ride horses, bicycle, and fish.

You can learn more about other treasures along the Old Florida Heritage Highway on the Micanopy website.

No matter where you go in historic Old Florida, don’t forget to use the beautiful La Florida stamps on your cards and letters to remind you of your trip. La Florida Forever® stamps are currently available online and in Post Offices around the country.

Tracing the Spanish Roots of La Florida

Last month, USPS marked the 500th anniversary of the first recorded Spanish expedition to Florida with the release of four new stamps called, simply, La Florida. Brimming with an opulent floral display, these attractive stamps evoke the beauty of the state’s lush vegetation. But we wanted to know more about the historic event they commemorate, so we did a little research.

f-2013-lafloridaThe first written record of European exploration was the landing of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León in March 1513. Ponce de León (1460–1521) had sailed with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the “New World” in 1493. After serving as governor of the island of Puerto Rico, he obtained a charter in 1512 from King Ferdinand of Spain for exploration of “Bimini” and other lands that were thought to lie to the north. To this day popular belief is that Ponce de León set out to discover the fabled Fountain of Youth, but his charter from the king did not mention such a quest.

Traveling with three ships, Ponce de León came within sight of the peninsula during Easter week of 1513. He named the land La Florida for Pascua Florida (Feast of the Flowers), Spain’s Easter celebration, and for the verdant display of vegetation visible beyond the shore. A few days after that first sighting, he landed on what he believed was an island and formally took possession in the name of the Spanish crown.

Ponce de León’s first visit was brief, but he secured a second royal grant, which made him governor and gave him the authority to colonize La Florida. Setting out in 1521, he chose the southwestern part of the peninsula as the location for his proposed settlement. Native defenders, most likely Calusa, attacked the Spanish, and in the battle Ponce de León was gravely wounded. Unable to continue, he set sail for Cuba, where he died of his wounds.

Commemorate the 500th anniversary of the naming of Florida with this set of four First Day Covers, each bearing an affixed La Florida (Forever®) stamp and an official First Day of Issue postmark. Click the image for details.

Several Spanish adventurers came after Ponce de León—treasure hunters and colonizers alike—but they met with little success. Hernando de Soto was among those searching for treasure, traveling the southeastern part of the continent from 1539 until his death in 1542, without ever discovering the cities of gold he sought. In 1559, Tristán de Luna y Arellano attempted to establish a Spanish settlement at Pensacola Bay, but a series of disasters ended the colony’s brief history in 1561.

Other navigators who came after 1513 had discovered that the “island” named by Ponce de León was actually part of an immense continent. By 1565, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded the first successful Spanish settlement at St. Augustine, La Florida was the name Spain used to identify the Atlantic coastline as far north as Newfoundland.

In 1845, 332 years after Ponce de León first stood on its shores, Florida became the 27th state of the United States.

La Florida Forever® stamps were issued April 3 in St. Augustine, Florida. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.

USPS Celebrates La Florida’s 500th Anniversary

Last week USPS commemorated the 500th anniversary of the naming of Florida with the issuance of a block of four colorful Forever® stamps, titled “La Florida.” This bouquet of stamps evokes the beauty of the state’s lush flora. The stamp dedication ceremony was held at Flagler College in St. Augustine.

LaFlorida-Forever-pane-BGv2“From the moment Ponce de Leon arrived on these shores, Florida has been a destination for dreamers,” said USPS Southern Area Operations Vice President Jo Ann Feindt, who dedicated the stamps. “This state occupies a special place in the American imagination, and so these stamps give people another way to share the wonders of Florida.”

Joining Feindt in dedicating the new stamps were U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and St. Augustine Mayor Joseph L. Boles. Also participating were Florida Department of State Secretary Ken Detzner; Flagler College President Dr. William T. Abare; and actor Chad Light, who portrays Juan Ponce de León for the State of Florida.

“Being a fifth-generation Floridian who has visited every part of the state and even seen it from space, I can tell you it’s unmatched in its beauty and diverse heritage,” said Senator Nelson. “It’s fitting the U.S. Postal Service is creating a stamp to commemorate the 500 years of history since Ponce de Leόn.”

photo 4

From left, reencator Chad Light, U.S. Postal Service Southern Area Vice President Jo Ann Feindt, Sen. Bill Nelson, St. Augustine Mayor Joe Bolles, and Flagler College President William Abare unveil the La Florida commemorative stamp in Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College in downtown St. Augustine. Credit: Jackie Hird.

The 46-cent La Florida (Forever®) stamps are produced in four designs. They are good for mailing 1-ounce First-Class letters anytime in the future regardless of price changes and are available for purchase at local Post Offices, online at, or by calling ().

This full-color program features the First Day Ceremony agenda and the list of participants on one side, with narrative about the stamp design on the reverse. The program is tucked inside a colorful 9 x 6-inch envelope that bears a randomly selected affixed, La Florida (Forever®) stamp and the official First Day of Issue cancellation. Click the image for details.

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks
To obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail, purchase the new stamps and affix them to the envelopes of your choice. Address the stamped envelopes to yourself or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

La Florida Stamp
U.S. Postal Service
99 King St
St. Augustine FL 32084-9998

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, USPS will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark for fewer than 50 requests. All orders must be postmarked by June 3, so don’t delay!