Just miles from downtown’s bustle, guests can discover Florida as it once was. The Garden manages 90 acres of Southwest Florida ecosystems ranging from coastal scrub to marshes to a pop ash and pond apple swamp. These diverse habitats showcase more than 400 species of native plants, many of them rare. They provide the foundation for healthy ecosystems that countless mammals, birds, and reptiles, including threatened gopher tortoises, call home. Guests may stroll a milelong paved path along the lakes, venture onto sandy trails, or meander across the Sönne Family Ghost Orchid Boardwalk looking for native orchids and other epiphytes amid the forest canopy. 

The Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Uplands feature more than 30 acres of pine flatwoods and coastal scrub, one of the state’s most imperiled habitats. Florida once had huge swaths of this high and dry land, much of it lost to development over time. Today, Garden researchers study native scrub plants and protect them by saving their seed and managing the land on which they are found.

The Collier Enterprises South Wetland is our signature restoration project and a model for demonstrating how an ecosystem can heal. The Garden’s founding staff and volunteers cleared invasive exotic Australian melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, and cattails that once dominated the site, allowing native grasses, sedges, and rushes to reclaim the marsh. The open water areas are a critical stopping off point for migratory birds. More than 200 species have been spotted in the Garden (see the eBird database for a full list). The James and Linda White Birding Tower is a perfect place to observe them.

These 90 acres also serve as a research park for scientists. Click here to learn about our conservation work and opportunities to conduct on-site research.