By Joe Parr, Director of Horticulture
There are so many new attractions and fresh adventures at Busch Gardens, some people don't realize that this park opened more than 50 years ago -- and many of the trees in the park, have been here since 1959!
One of the first features that the BG Horticulture team planted back then were the trees which would form the wonderful canopy that provides cooling shade so appreciated by our guests and animals alike. In the three raised planters in the guest walkway in between Nature’s Kingdom gift shop and the alligator habiatat in the Morocan Village area grew a row of large Laurel Oak trees.
Though native to Florida, the laurel oak has a life span of just 40-50 years. In contrast the native live oaks can live to be a very stately 500 years old. When park arborists decided that the laurels had to go, a plan was made to give this popular guest area near the alligators a fresh new look.
A row of six Sylvester date palms was chosen in keeping with the Moorish themeing of the surrounding architecture. These palms have beautiful and full heads and an interesting tight scar pattern to their trunks.
A dozen cubic yards of compost was used to fortify the soil in the planters. This compost is created right here at Busch Gardens from shredded landscape debris and herbivore waste. After six weeks of natural decomposition the finished product is rich in nutrients and a great medium for growing everything from grass to shrubs to trees.
Our team created a very tropical "understory" from Chinese fan palms, dwarf red hibiscus, red cat tail bush, purple glory bush, yellow lantana, red and yellow shrimp plants, button ginger, purple queen groundcover and a border of mondo grass edging. The most "talked about" plant in these displays are the strilking orange Aechmea blanchetianna bromeliads. These large, upright plants are actually structural relatives of the pineapple! They are transluscent and really light up the landscape, thriving in full sunlight.
Nearby on the Zagora Cafe patio, seven new Bismarck Palms palms are a bold standout in the landscape with huge silvery blue green fronds up to ten feet across. See more detail in this post from BG Blogger, Naomi, who is on our Horticulture team.
Native to the island of Madagascar, these palms are nearly extincty in the wild from over harvesting. Pojects are underway to plant new stands of this beautiuful plam in its native land.
These impressive giants are remnants of the dinosaur age when giant plants covered the ancient landmasses of the earth.