Sarasota Jungle Gardens, once described as an “impenetrable swamp”, consisting of muddy, swamp soil was considered by many to be infertile. The exact opposite, however, is true. Because the soil was once covered by fresh water and hundreds of years of decaying plants, it is actually very rich, and full of nutrients and minerals. It remains perpetually damp, even in the driest of seasons.
A stroll along deeply shaded, winding brick paths takes visitors across a number of rustic bridges that stem bubbling streams flowing into the many lagoons that dot the property. Towering trees, flowering vines and shrubs obscure the sky in many places.
The vegetation at Sarasota Jungle Gardens, once the only attraction here, still enthralls visitors from the world over. The Ponderosa Lemon with its football size fruit is a favorite, as well as the Carambola of Florida PlantsMalaya, Bunya Bunya from Australia, Lychee of China and Norfolk Pine, to name a few. A volcanic stone archway marks the entrance to the Biblical Garden where the Bulrush grows profusely near the waters’ edge. Here, the Date Palm drops its fruit regularly while the Fig, Olive, Myrtle, Pomegranate Rose of Sharon and Cedar stand stately by.
Magnificent Royal Palms towering toward the sky line up along the return trail through the Cathedral of Palms. Huge vines climbing through many trees along with Orchids – both native and rare – are seen everywhere. Colorful blooms drape the area from red, purple and orange Bougainvillea while Golden Flame Vines, Hibiscus and Tropical Fruits add to the painter’s palette.
When the Gardens was founded, the rare and exotic plants thrived without the aid of fertilizers. Because many of the Gardens’ birds and animals are free roaming, most pesticides and herbicides are prohibited.
Over the years, many of the exotic plants have perished due to age or frost. Instead of replanting the same species, they have been replaced with native Florida plants and grasses. Several areas in the Gardens are examples of natural habitats for these native species. With more than 3,000 different varieties of trees and shrubs, the vegetation at Sarasota Jungle Gardens will amaze even the most seasoned botanist.