The San Diego Zoo is an accredited botanical garden. The zoo’s mission to safeguard wildlife doesn’t stop at animals but includes the plants that animals depend on. There are 700,000 plants at the zoo and forty horticulturalists that care for them (at both the zoo and the Safari Park, as well as off-site farms that raise the food that the giraffes and other animals eat). As important as their job is, usually the plant specialists remain behind the scenes, except on Plant Days. Plant Days happens once or twice a month, and include opening up greenhouses that are usually closed to the public, as well as running a botanic bus tour at 11:00. We started at the orchid greenhouse, then did the hour long bus tour followed by a stop at the carnivorous plants greenhouse.
At the orchid greenhouse we learned all about how they use agar with special nutrients to germinate the orchid seeds, since all orchids have a symbiotic relationship with fungus (which they choose to limit growth of at the zoo). He also showed us vanilla, a reminder that vanilla comes from an orchid. Later, at the carniverous plants greenhouse, we learned that the Venus flytrap actually comes from the Carolinas. It is the only place in the world that this species grow, in a 100 mile region between North and South Carolina. We left the zoo today with a greater appreciation for the conservation work the zoo does across the globe, as well as with a stack of thirteen distinct botanical tour brochures, ensuring hours of plant focused zoo time ahead.