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The Plant Doctor: Small zoo in Flushing is big asset for borough

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What the facility lacks in size, more than makes up in presentation - both from artistic perspectives and from a truly ecological standpoint.

For the enthusiast of gardening, the Queens Zoo offers an amazing array of thoughtful ecosystems, which at once provides an ideal living environment for their North American inhabitants, and a cornucopia of native plants.

Louis Matarazzo, horticulturist for the Queens Zoo, working with a fantastic staff of devoted personnel, has tried and indeed succeeded in producing s facility that provides shelter for the animals, effectively blocks out the distraction of the adjacent Grand Central Parkway, while permitting a pleasant visual experience for those who come to learn about our native animals.

Problems in maintaining a seemingly natural environment crop up almost daily. For instance, ever try to establish and sustain lush grass prairies with a herd of bison or prairie dog? The task is endless - you plant, they eat and trample, so you plant again. The alligator display, reserved for June through September, recreates the swampy appearance of their native habitat. Planting aquatic plants and maintaining the artificial pond and swampy conditions requires an incredible amount of talent - and time.

To add flavor to this already flavor-filled exhibit, the horticulturists have planted a butterfly exhibit which attracts these delicate creatures throughout the year, and most profoundly during their migratory season.

The aviary, one of the finest exhibits of its kind, houses many species of birds, skillfully hidden in underbrush, ponds, and in the upper canopy of several large trees. The aviary is also home of the endangered thick-billed parrot. Although currently found in Mexico, this particular species is the only existing parrot native to the United States, and is extremely rare.

Preserving the native trees in the area allows the observer to appreciate the abundance of color, which becomes evident at this time of the year. While a trip upstate may provide you with a fountain of color, our little 12-acre protected ecosystem provides you with quality. Concentrated in this small area is probably a greater variety of flora then one may expect to find wandering the larger parks in New York City.

Once in the park, you will quickly forget that you are in the middle of Queens. It's a rural experience in an urban environment.

For more information contact the Queens Zoo at 271-1500. Plan for a great day for you, your children, and if you are like me, your grandchildren.

Questions or comments on gardening and plant care can be addressed to: The Plant doctor c/o Queens Publishing Co., 41-09 Bell Blvd., Bayside, N.Y. 11361, or by e-mail at HYPERLINK "mailto:Harvey.Goodman@att.net" Harvey.Goodman@att.net

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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