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Flowers, tranquility highlights of Tropical Dream Center

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2004-09-24

Tropical Dream Center is more than just a name.

A part of the Ocean Expo Park complex near Nago on Okinawaís northwest coast, Tropical Dream Center is a few hours respite from the hustle and bustle of todayís society, where visitors can walk and commune with nature.

Orchids abound throughout the Centerís three greenhouses. More than 2,000 are on display, with brilliant flashes of color together with the many shapes and sizes. Some are found many places around the world, while others are rare species. All are captivating. The pinks and whites of Japanís Phalaenopsis orchid (known as Kocho-ran here), unique lavender Vanda orchids, which grow not in the ground, but from trees with their roots exposed, and brilliant, vibrant pinks, whites and yellows of the Cattleya species are captivating.

Hoya, mango, sugar apple, Barbados cherry, yellow oleander, cannonball, royal Poinciana, natal plum, red powderpuff, senna, hibiscus, bougainvillea, lobster claw, dendrobium. Some are commonly known to visitors, while others are a first time delight. Some grow and flower year around, while others like the dendrobium and red powderpuff each have two-month annual bloom cycles.

The Tropical Dream Center has 14 separate viewing stations or stops, each spotlighting a different aspect of natureís tropical and subtropical plants and flowers grown around the world. The Victoria Greenhouse accents the Amazon Water Lily and other tropical aquatic plants, while the lotus pond has even more of the two-meter-wide giant lilies.

Tropical fruits abound, from the giant jackfruit trees of India, to the Malaysian Carambola tree. The jackfruit, with individual fruits grows to more than 80 pounds. The carambola, which produces bright colored waxy yellow fruit that takes the shape of a star when sliced, is more popularly known as the star fruit. Another visitor favorite is the Cacao tree and its fruit, the cacao bean. Cacao is a key ingredient in products ranging from chocolate to cocoa.

And one more, the chewing gum tree, is not to be passed by. Chicle, from the treeís bark, is a primary ingredient in chewing gum.

Walks through the gardens are peaceful. On one, Japanese koi, a colorful fish, swim right to the bridge and beg to be fed, mouths open wide.

The Landmark Observatory, stretching 118 feet into the sky, offers a panoramic view of the western coastline, and the entire Okinawa Expo Park complex. Ie Island, to the northwest, is clearly visible.

The Cost

Tropical Dream Center is open seven days a week. It opens year around at 9:30am.

Closing times vary between 4:30 and 5:30pm, but visitors should plan on at least two hours to visit. Admission is •670 for adults, and •340 for children 6-14. Children five and under are free. There are group discounts available for organizations, schools, etc, with more than 20 participants.

Getting There

Ocean Expo Park and Tropical Dream Center are easy to find. Take the Okinawa Expressway or Highway 58 north. Take Route 449 around Nago City to Route 84, and then Route 114. There are many signs directing visitors to the Park.

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