Not only is the Garden a wonderful place to visit to see formal gardens, you can experience the diversity of beautiful habitats that make up wild Florida as well. The Garden is home to a range of native ecosystems from the exceedingly rare upland scrub, to the globally important mangrove.
The cypress dome’s namesake is the bald cypress, Taxodium distichum. Cypress trees form a near monoculture canopy with smaller trees growing around the edges in shallower water and larger trees growing in center’s deeper water. As the water recedes in the drier winter months, bald cypress go deciduous, dropping their feathery needles and allowing sunlight to reach the epiphytes and understory below. The subcanopy and understory contain a wide range of wetland species ranging from the bright-red fruited dahoon holly, Ilex cassine and the occasional avocado relative, swamp bay, Persea palustris, to smaller herbaceous swamp fern, Blechnum serrulatum, and alligator flag, Thalia geniculata. Cypress domes are also home to a wide range of epiphytic plants, including bromeliads and orchids. Several Tillandsia species can be found in the Garden’s cypress dome.
This remnant slough once connected with the Garden’s cypress dome but was isolated by development prior to acquisition of the Garden Property. The slough still contains larger remnant species, including the dominant overstory of pond apples Annona glabra, and an understory of common buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis arrowheads Sagittaria spp, and the beautiful white flowered crinum lily, Crinum americanum. Common slough canopy species, Pop ash Fraxinus americanus, and Red Maple Acer rubrum have been restored to the remnant habitat.
The Garden’s wet pine flatwoods form transitional habitats around the scrub in the Smith Upland Preserve. As the name suggests, the canopy in the flatwoods is predominantly south Florida slash pine, Pinus elliottii var. densa. Much like the scrub, the understory is dominated by saw palmetto, Serenoa repens. The flatwoods can be differentiated from the scrub by the presence of cabbage palms Sabal palmetto, gallberry Ilex glabra, and Carolina redrootLachnanthes caroliana.
One of Florida’s most endangered ecosystems, the scrub, is a beautiful garden in its own right. The Smith Uplands Trail wends through the scrub under an overstory of south Florida slash pine Pinus elliottii var. densa, and scrub oaks Quercus geminate. The understory is dominated by saw palmetto Serenoa repens, Florida rosemary Ceratiola ericoides, and diverse collection of grasses, wildflowers, and heaths. Crusts of fragile lichen can be seen along the trail, growing on top of fine white sugar sands. Healthy scrub habitat is vital to the federally threatened Gopher tortoise. Periodic fires maintain an open canopy, allowing grasses and other essential tortoise foods to grow in abundance. Keep an eye out for one of the Garden’s gopher tortoises or their easily identifiable burrows.
West Lake and Deep Lake are man-made lakes originally dug in the 1940’s then expanded in 2009 during the Garden’s expansion. These lakes support many species of fresh and coastal fish species, including tarpon and snook. The plants growing in littoral zones along the shores of the Garden’s lakes provide important breeding and foraging habitat for all aquatic life. The littoral zones are dominated by sand cordgrass (Spartina), pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), American bulrush (Scirpus americanus), leather ferns (Acrostichum spp.), and spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.).
The Collier Enterprises South Wetland is fringed by mangrove habitat. All three species of mangroves native to Florida can be found fringing the open brackish marsh. Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), may be the easiest species to identify by the long, reddish prop-roots that support the plant above the water’s surface. Two large black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) can be found growing at the marsh’s edge along the lake trail. Black mangroves are characteristically unique, with nearly black bark, leaves with white undersides, and pencil-like roots, called pneumatophores, projecting from the soil. The chalky white leaves are actually salt crystals, part of black mangrove’s unique method of removing excess salts. White mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) can be identified by the two glands at the base of the leaf common to plants of the Combretaceae Family. Other species commonly found in the garden’s mangrove fringe include the plumeria relative, mangrove rubber vine (Rhabdadenia biflora) and green buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus).
Once surrounded by the aggressive, exotic melaleuca (Melaleucaquinquenervia) and dominated by invasive cattails(Typha spp.), the Collier Enterprises South Wetland has undergone a major transformation. The treatment and removal of invasive species has allowed native grasses and rushes to re-colonize the marsh and restored open water areas during much of the year..The Collier wetland is now predominantly sand cordgrass (Spartina bakeri), black needle rush (Juncus roemerianus), and other graminoid (grass-like) plants. The continued success of this restoration project is evident in the increased number of ducks and wading birds.
Open Daily 9am - 5pm
From US 41 east, take Bayshore Drive south. Travel 1.5 miles to stop sign at Thomasson Drive. Keep straight, staying on Bayshore and enter Garden on the right.
ADA accessible paths through all cultivated gardens, paved paths to birding tower. Scooter rentals are available on a first come first serve basis for $12/day.
Parking available inside of the entrance gate.
Adults - $12.95
Children 4-14 - $7.95
3 and under free
helpful phone numbers