OKC ZOO CELEBRATES 20 YEARS AS AN ACCREDITED BOTANICAL GARDEN, LIVING MUSEUM
April 19, 2018
The Oklahoma City Zoo received national accreditation as a botanical garden and living museum through the American Association of Museums in April of 1998. In the last 20 years, the OKC Zoo’s botanical collection has grown in size and scope through the acquisition of new plants and gardens by way of major habitat installations and expansions. The Zoo is now home to more than 20 designated horticultural displays and collections including over 100 species native to Oklahoma.
“The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is a place for people to connect with nature and appreciate the interconnectedness of the plant and animal collections as one,” said Lance Swearengin, horticultural curator. “The future of the botanical garden looks bright with many exciting events on the horizon such as a new picnic grove and great lawn landscape installation and the addition of our local Master Gardeners digging in to help the botanical gardens flourish for the next twenty years.”
The OKC Zoo has a long history of botanical interests with many native trees on-grounds over 100 years old. Historic post oak groves guard the landscape as the descendants of the Zoo’s historic cross-timbers ecosystem. These tall shady figures guide the botanical collection and remind guests of the important role that native plant materials play in Oklahoma’s natural environment. A program of the Tree Bank Foundation to celebrate 100 years of statehood, over 100 trees were planted in Oklahoma Trails, which is known as the Centennial Tree Grove.
Turning to the future, landscaping near the recently renovated picnic area is near completion, as new and exciting gardens are currently being planted. The picnic grove and great lawn promise to be the new core of the botanical garden with several distinct garden areas coming to life for Zoo guests. The plants chosen for the gardens will bloom in succession throughout the seasons so there will always be something colorful and exciting to enjoy. Landmark native plant specimens alongside rare and unusual species are the focus of the gardens. They will thrive under a canopy of flowering trees and shrubs thoughtfully designed to accentuate the existing oak grove.
Conservation of the historic oaks that have long been a fundamental part of this space inspired the project, and the preservation of these ancient members of the botanical collection was the motivation behind the update. Construction of a large picnic deck elevates guests up into the canopy of the grove and alleviates problems with further soil compaction saving these landmark trees for generations to come.
Opening this summer, the new 6.6 acre, $22 million expansion called Sanctuary Asia will create an expansive environment where endangered animals from the Asian continent can thrive while receiving world-class zoological animal care and where a lush, stimulating natural environment can be admired by new audiences in new ways. While utilizing plants native to Oklahoma, the garden’s layout is inspired by traditional Japanese and southeastern Asian horticultural traditions and influences. It will evoke harmony and feature a serene landscape that's beautiful in every season.
Other Horticultural Highlights:
- The Zoo contains Oklahoma's largest collection of hardy bamboo.
- The Zoo grows unusual, rare and endangered plants for display on grounds and in exhibits.
- Zoo Blooms, the Zoo’s annual floral festival, displays over 100,000 specimens of flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, narcissus and iris every spring.
- The Zoo has one of the largest, outdoor walk-through Butterfly Gardens in Oklahoma totaling 21,000 square feet.
- The Zoo uses a variety of its plants as enrichment-dietary supplements for Zoo animals, such as bamboo, mulberry trees, willows, canes, day lily flowers, and sugar cane.
Visit the Oklahoma City Zoo and learn to care, connect and conserve! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.