Most visitors to the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens come to see the animals. What is often overlooked is the vital connections between the fauna and the flora. The plants that provide food, shade, and even entertainment are every bit as important as the animals—a fact that is as crucial in the wild as it is in the Zoo. One of the fundamental principles of conservation is habitat preservation, and at the foundation of every habitat on earth are plants.
There are three main groups of plants at the Zoo, many of which overlap. Often the trees that fill the landscape (acacia, eucalyptus, ficus, mulberry) also provide food for the animals, commonly known as “browse.” Additionally, the Zoo’s plant collection includes many intriguing specimen plants—examples of unusual or distinctive species such as the Chilean wine palm, bald cypress, and cycads. Zoo grounds also feature special gardens that highlight groups of plants. The native gardens present many of this region’s spectacular indigenous plants, while the cactus and succulent gardens contain representatives of arid climates around the world, and the cycad garden is a living time capsule full of plant species that have been in existence since the age of dinosaurs.
As you stroll Zoo grounds, take some time out to appreciate the botanical bounty around you, and when you observe the animal residents, remember that the key to the survival of their wild counterparts is preserving the environment that is their home and that includes native plants.