This Moody Gardens event gives rare look into one of nature's most mysterious ocean events

HOUSTON – Moody Gardens is giving people the chance to experience one of nature’s most rare ocean phenomena called coral spawning at its “Rhapsody on the Reef” event on Aug. 23 at the Aquarium Pyramid. 

At “Rhapsody on the Reef,” Moody Gardens will livestream the coral spawning live from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary about 150 miles off the coast of Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The coral spawning event allows the corals at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to reproduce and disperse their genetic material over large distances. It also allows for genetic mixing between species of coral for greater diversification.

The nonprofit notes, "In ways that defy scientific understanding, each coral species times its spawning for maximum benefit to the ecosystem in general." 

At the Flower Garden Banks, this event typically occurs seven to 10 days after the full moon in August. The timing for these mass spawning events varies from reef to reef around the world. 

Moody Gardens wrote in a press release: “The stunning phenomenon brings to mind an underwater blizzard with billions of colorful flakes cascading in white, yellow, red, and orange. These flakes, known as planula will eventually settle in a particular area and begin to bud in the ocean developing a coral colony.” 

The event will also feature presentations from NOAA, Galveston Bay Foundation and others as well as live music, a menu of light hors d’oeuvres and desserts, a cash bar and a silent auction. The money raised at this event is used to help with ocean conservation. 

While it occurs 150 miles off the coast, most people are unaware of this coral spawning. It takes place within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, one of 14 federally designated underwater areas protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. It is the only sanctuary site located in the Gulf of Mexico. The total area of the sanctuary is about 56 square miles, divided between three distinct areas: East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank.

Discovered at the turn of the 20th century by fishermen in search of snapper and grouper, the banks’ colorful reefs are the northernmost in the continental United States. Fishermen nicknamed this area the "Texas Flower Gardens" because of the colorful marine life they saw on the reefs below them. By the time the sanctuary was designated, the term 'banks' had been added to the name as a reference to the salt dome formations upon which the reefs are perched.

“We are excited to be able to provide our guests with the chance to experience this beautiful phenomenon in a unique setting,” said Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt, adding that this experience fits perfectly with Moody Gardens’ mission to educate the public as the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is a hidden gem sitting just 150 miles off the coast of Galveston Island. 

Early bird tickets are $85 per person until Aug. 16. The regular price is $100 per person starting Aug. 17 with proceeds going to the Moody Gardens’ Conservation Fund. 

The funds raised from this event will go specifically to coral conservation efforts around the world. This event provides not only the perfect opportunity for the public to learn about a hidden gem off the coast of Galveston, but to contribute directly to helping with the initiatives supporting the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and other organizations like it. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit MoodyGardens.org.  

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