In the next decade, The Underline will transform downtown and the US1 corridor in Miami, Coral Gables and South Miami from an industrial-looking expanse to an inviting, natural, and people-friendly space. The project was inspired by New York’s High Line—a linear nature park on a decommissioned railroad line that is a focal point for art installations, community gatherings and programming and public art. When Friends of The Underline was formed in Miami, founder Meg Daly wanted to replicate the success of New York’s High Line, but with a tropical flair. Naturally, Meg and the design team from James Corner Field Operations looked to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for inspiration and wisdom.
The Underline team met with Fairchild scientists and horticulturists throughout the master planning and Brickell Backyard designs process. The group reviewed the latest beautifully-drawn plans and discussed plant choices. As experts in local plants, the Fairchild team recommended eliminating some species because they might not fare well for one reason or another (“that one grows too tall,” or “that one always gets a fungus on its leaves”), while other species were added because they thrive in our unique subtropical climate (“native stoppers require almost no maintenance and make an excellent screen”).
Collaboration with Fairchild’s Million Orchid Project (MOP) was of course discussed (because what says ‘tropical flair’ more than orchids?). That program seeks to saturate the limbs of Miami’s taller trees with one million native orchids—species such as butterfly, clamshell and cowhorn orchids. Pine pinks and Florida oncidium will be part of street-level plantings. Students and citizens who are the driving force behind MOP will help install plants and can visit the fruits of their labor in a publicly accessible setting.
Another Fairchild program that will collaborate with The Underline is the Connect to Protect Network (CTPN), a citizen science initiative that encourages South Florida homeowners and schools to plant native plants in their yards. Linear planting areas that serve to connect many isolated CTPN gardens are a dream come true for the program. Importantly, The Underline’s plant palette includes a whopping 80% native species, many of which were specially chosen for their butterfly-attracting features. This translates to thousands of native plants being installed, which will in turn boost butterfly populations.
Just as The Underline will connect gardens along its perimeter, the project has connected a multitude of organizations and municipalities who want to work together to improve the quality of life for everyone in Miami (humans, wildlife, and plants too). Fairchild takes pride in supporting this ambitious and important urban reforestation and native plant installation project.
– Jennifer Possley
This edition of Meg Daly’s SOMI Magazine Underline Report is prepared by Jennifer Possley.
Jennifer Possley is the Conservation Program Manager at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where her duties include managing the Connect to Protect Network. To learn more about this free program, visit www.fairchildgarden.org/CTPN.