Botanical Gardens

Botanical Garden Concept Plan: Setting a New Standard


For decades, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has given Jacksonville and Northeast Florida residents a place to love animals. Now our mission is to offer our community a public place to love plants, while setting a new standard for zoos in the process. We are in the process of building a first-of-its-kind botanical garden inside our Zoo that, unlike other zoos, is integrated among the animal exhibits. Unlike most other growing and culturally-rich cities, Jacksonville cannot list a botanical garden as one of its cultural treasures.

Beyond filling an educational need, botanical gardens benefit their communities in many ways. They become tourist attractions, benefit the green industry, serve as an employer and pump millions of construction dollars into the regional economy. Over the past 400 years, botanical gardens evolved from a menagerie of medicinal plants to entering the 21st century with a strong focus on the concept of environmental sustainability. While some zoos have enhanced the natural habitat of their animal collection, none to our knowledge have committed to the idea of combining a zoo and botanical garden. This combination will only serve to strengthen each institution’s ability to foster a clear vision of sustainable conservation of our natural resources. With the help of a nationally-renowned botanical garden design firm, the Zoo developed three major garden zones in its Botanical Garden Concept Plan:

The Main Path, known as the River of Color: Visitors will begin their garden journey in the Main Camp Garden greeted with a celebratory display of striking foliage and flowering plants. They will be drawn toward the River of Color by drifts of colorful bloom swirling through ribbons of contrasting foliage and textures in the distance. Throughout the Zoo, the River of Color will be a linear garden that links garden destinations and animal exhibits.

Themed Pocket Gardens: Distinct and unique garden jewels of horticultural display that immerse the visitor in through plant themed forecourts to the animal exhibits that follow. Each garden is about 2 acres in size. Currently our Pocket Gardens include the African-Savanna Blooms Garden, South American-Range of the Jaguar Garden, the native gardens of Wild Florida and Play Park, the formal Gardens of Trout River, and the Asian Garden.

The Primary Gardens: In Jacksonville, visitors to the Zoo have recognized the unique relationship the Zoo shares with the Trout River. The beautiful native water-edge plants and spectacular panoramic views over the River set this area aside as something quite special. Recognizing this potential, we selected this area as the home for the Primary

Gardens which will cover approximately twelve acres and include Collection Gardens and the Conservatory.

Garden Tours

Gardener's Corner

By Harry Owens, Horticulture Technician II

It is March and chances are that you are already being reminded of the forthcoming St. Patrick’s Day by the patches of clover in your yard. This little plant is not only symbolic of the holiday but also the country of Ireland. While there are dozens of types of clover, the most common type in our area is white clover (Trifolium repens). Its scientific name translates to three-leaved creeper, describing both its appearance and habit of growth.

They are an herbaceous, low-growing legume that tend to form in mats. They usually have three oval-shaped leaves that may have markings on them and white, puff ball blooms. The flowers can show tinges of pink or tan with age. Other varieties may have different colored and shaped blooms, but the leaves generally have a similar appearance.

Many people consider clover a weed, but it can be more beneficial to your lawn than you know. It is a great companion to turf grass because it helps with nitrogen deficiencies in your yard. Wherever the clover was in the winter, your turf grass will come back stronger in the spring. Since it’s a cold weather plant, it can bring some color to your yard during the dreary winter months. It can attract wildlife to your yard as well: bees, deer, and rabbits love it. It is also proven to be a beneficial forage crop for farmers to feed to livestock.
I had mentioned earlier that they usually have three leaves but that is not always the case. For every 5,000 three-leaf clovers, there is 1 four-leaf clover. Some people believe the four leaves represent hope, faith, love, and luck. Some impressive records for four-leaf collecting include finding 51 in 1 hour and 72 in 1 day. There are also 5-leaf clovers known as rose clovers. The fifth leaf is said to represent money. The most leaves ever recorded on a single clover were 56 in 2009 in Japan. It is debated on whether genetics or environmental factors cause the multiple leaves, and some say both. Plant nurseries are cultivating clover to have additional leaves, but I do not think they are as lucky as naturally occurring ones.

I have two challenges for you this month. The first is a long-term challenge: if you have a clover patch in your yard go take a picture of the area. Now wait a few months for it to die off and see what comes back in its place. Depending on your lawn the turf will vary but whatever comes back will be healthy and fuller than anywhere there was not clover. The second challenge can be done anytime. It is to take a little time out of your day and try to find a four-leaf clover. This might be a good St. Patty’s Day activity, or you can get started sooner in an attempt to beat the Guinness world record holder who collected 111,060 in an eight-year span. Whoever they are should play the lottery with all that luck.

Savanna Blooms

Gardens at Trout River Plaza

Asian Bamboo Garden

Future Gardens

Garden Tours


Rivers of Color Garden