The LA Zoo and Botanical gardens are located within the enormous Griffith Park. Spreading over 4,300 acres, Griffith is one of the largest and most famous parks in the country and commonly referred to as the “central park” of Los Angeles (although much bigger by comparison).
The botanical gardens at the LA Zoo are scattered throughout the grounds in 15 different collections. They feature over 800 different plant species with a total of over 7,400 individual plants.
Officially accredited in 2003, the botanical gardens are an important park feature for both the zoo visitors as well as its inhabitants. plants not only fill the zoo landscape, but also provide food for the animals. The biggest and most abundant collection of plants in the gardens is referred to as “browse”. These acacia, eucalyptus, ficus, and mulberry Many of the specialty gardens are also dedicated to growing tasty animal snacks like the Edible Garden which produces corn stalks, figs, beets, and banana tree leaves.
An extensive collection of indigenous plants can be found in the native garden. This is filled with species that can only grow in the unique climate of southern California such as Cleveland sage, “Dark Star” ceanothus and dozens of California wildflowers.
Additionally, the zoo serves as a plant collection center for illegally imported specimens confiscated from government agencies. Rare bulbs, orchids, and cacti are often rescued from smuggling and put on special display in the botanical greenhouse.
The gardens are mostly organized by their native habitat, similar to the zoo animals. Still a work in progress, curators aim to have someone visit a certain animal and have them surrounded in flora only of that environment to produce an authentic atmosphere.
The LA Zoo and Botanical gardens uniquely educates the public of the important role plants play to sustain eco-systems and wildlife. The animals need and enjoy the botanical gardens just as much as we do!