Our gardens boast an incredible array of plants from all over the globe — from Hong Kong orchid trees to Mexican fan palms. For many visitors, our plant life is as much of an attraction as our wildlife.
The plants that provide food, shade, and even entertainment are every bit as important as the animals — a fact that is as crucial in the wild as it is in the Zoo. One of the fundamental principles of conservation is habitat preservation, and at the foundation of every habitat on earth are plants.
There are three main groups of plants at the Zoo, many of which overlap. Landscaping plants dominate, adding visual interest and helping to create geographically appropriate settings for the animal habitats. Many of the trees that fill the landscape (acacia, eucalyptus, ficus, mulberry) also provide food for the animals, commonly known as browse. Additionally, the Zoo’s plant collection includes many intriguing specimen plants—examples of unusual or distinctive species such as the Chilean wine palm, bald cypress, and cycads. Zoo grounds also feature special gardens that highlight groups of plants. The native gardens present many of Southern California’s spectacular indigenous plants, while the cactus and succulent gardens contain representatives of arid climates around the world, and the cycad garden is a living time capsule full of plant species that have been in existence since the age of dinosaurs.
As you stroll Zoo grounds, take some time out to appreciate the botanical bounty around you, and when you observe the animal residents, remember that the key to the survival of their wild counterparts is the plant communities that support them.