Marie Selby Botanical Garden
Sarasota, Florida
December, 2010

This 11-acre garden is world-famous for its collection of epiphytic plants, with large collections of orchids and bromeliads.


From the admissions area you’re directed into the Conservatory, an introductory greenhouse showing the beauty and diversity of epiphytes. It is planted so densely that I found it a little overwhelming and it was difficult to find labels for any of the plants. This detracted a little from the educational aspect of the introduction but the sheer mass of the plantings certainly conveyed the beauty and diversity lesson.


Stepping out of the Conservatory, you encounter a landscape nearly as lush as in the greenhouse. Much different than the arid southwest where I’ve spent most of my career.

Trail View

There are bromeliads almost everywhere you look, in the trees and on the ground, but the Bromeliad Garden provides a great showcase for them. Here they are beautifully displayed and very well-labeled so you can really appreciate their beauty and diversity.

Bromeliad Garden

Right next to the Bromeliad Garden is the mansion which houses a museum of botanical and conservation-related art. It was nicely decorated for Christmas during my visit. I especially like the bromeliad Christmas Tree in front of the building.

Christmas Tree

It was a cold and blustery day when I visited, threatening rain any minute. I was feeling bad that I’d come on such a miserable day until I walked into this stand of timber bamboo. The sound of the wind clattering the stems together was the sound of the most beautiful wind chimes I’d ever heard. Sometimes beautiful moments come at the most surprising times.

Timber Bamboo

I also loved the walkway through the Mangrove swamp. The twisted and gnarly mass of roots and trunks has an otherworldly look that I find visually fascinating.

Mangrove Walkway

There are lots of other great things about this garden: the Succulent Garden, with its mix of traditional succulents and arid-loving bromeliads; the displays of cycads and palms; the Tidal Lagoon; the Butterfly and Fragrance Gardens. But the other display that really stands out to me is the Banyan Grove. The massive aerial roots of these figs has always astounded me, and although I’ve seen much larger individual banyans, this grove is quite a sight.

Banyan Grove

This is a very special garden. It has a spectacular location, almost surrounded by water, and it makes the most of that water with interpretation, views and walkways. The plant collection is also spectacular and they interpret it well. In addition to being a great display garden, staff are also involved with important research and conservation work. My only complaint would be that there is almost no interpretation of this research and conservation work. The average visitor would have a great visit but leave knowing nothing of the garden’s most important work. Still. I can’t imagine anyone not throughly enjoying a few hours here.

To see more photos of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden, click
here to visit the garden's website.

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