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Botanical Gardens Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long has the Los Angeles Zoo also included the botanical gardens?
A: The L.A. Zoo has maintained a wide selection of plants for many years, but was accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) in May 2003, making it an officially recognized botanical collection.

butterfly-flowerQ: How is a botanical collection officially recognized?

A: Accreditation by the AAM is a multi-year process that involves a number of stages.  Each institution must prepare its own collection, botanical databases, and supplementary departments according to AAM counseling.  The AAM accreditation is ultimately determined based on a one- or two-day review by a committee of specialists, and is repeated every ten years to renew the license.

In particular, the Los Angeles Zoo was recognized for its impressive database of plants and plant information, often used today as a foundation or outline for similar databases in other zoos.  Some of the most useful information, for example, regarded the experiences of various keepers in feeding different kinds of browse to the Zoo’s animals.

Q: Are tickets to the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens the same?
A: Yes!  Since the plants are scattered throughout the Zoo, you can browse both our flora and our fauna exhibits at the same time.

Q: How are the botanical gardens organized?
A: Plants are organized and arranged based on their indigenous locations.  They are then matched to the various regions within the Zoo – Africa, South America, North America, and so on.  Like the Zoo’s animals, plants are thus grouped by their native habitats.  While still a work in progress, the ultimate goal is for visitors to walk into, for example, the Asian area of the zoo, and be surrounded only by plants and animals indigenous to Asia.

Q: How many plants does the botanical gardens collection contain?
A: The Zoo is constantly planting new plants and removing old ones, so an exact count is difficult.  However, we have more than 7,000 individual plants, representing more than 800 different species.

Q; Who and what is involved in maintaining the gardens?
A: The Los Angeles Zoo’s dedicated grounds maintenance crew, which includes 16 full-time gardener caretakers and 4 senior gardeners, handles the various tasks of our botanical garden’s upkeep.  Looking after thousands of different plants from around the world is a complicated and multi-faceted job.  Specimens are constantly being moved, trimmed, or replanted for a number of reasons; they have outgrown their current site, they are in the way of a new exhibit, and so on.  The botanical gardens are thus always a progressing project, constantly shifting to reflect the collection’s growth.

Q: Is every plant on the Zoo’s grounds part of the botanical gardens?
A: No, only those plants that are labeled and catalogued within our database are included in our garden’s collection.  Any other plants are only used as part of our landscaping and design.  Plants are included in the collection because they are particularly noteworthy, perhaps as important browse (food item) for some of our animals or as a member of an interesting species.

Q: Do the botanical gardens have any additional duties beyond maintaining its collection?
A: Yes. As one of 62 Plant Rescue Centers in the nation, the Los Angeles Zoo is often called upon by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to care for exotic or rare plants that people have attempted to smuggle into the country.  Since many countries don’t want to lose key plant species or specimens, it is often a long process to determine what will happen to confiscated samples.  Our botanical gardens can provide a temporary, viable habitat for such “rescued” plants.

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