Beautiful Botanical Gardens

The mission of the botanical garden at the Oklahoma City Zoo is to connect people with our plant collection through educational programs and botanical opportunities that inspire and advance plant, animal, and natural resource conservation.

Botanical Garden: The botanical garden at the Oklahoma City Zoo will delight and inspire you with opportunities to experience our extensive botanical collection that also serves as an immersive environment for our unique animal habitats. The botanical garden encompasses over 130 acres where exotic animals roam over the landscapes under a canopy of flowering trees, forested groves, and wildflower meadows. Come visit the largest collection of Oklahoma native plants nestled securely within the historic cross timbers ecosystem. This remarkable ecosystem, where the eastern deciduous forest meets the tall grass prairie, is the cornerstone of the botanical garden and sets the tone for a purely unmatched botanical experience. Our Oklahoma native plant collection contains over 100 species some of which are listed as rare or imperiled. The botanical garden also hosts the largest outdoor butterfly garden in Oklahoma covering over 21,000 square feet and showcasing pollinator plants, nectar pants, and host plants which serve to educate guests on the importance of pollinators and monarch migration. Plants displayed in our collection include species from North America, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America. The Zoo achieved recognition through the American Alliance of Museums in 1998 as a living museum and botanical garden. The botanical garden maintains membership with the Association of Zoological Horticulture, the American Public Gardens Association, and the Oklahoma Nursery and Landscape Association. Group and private tours of the botanical gardens are available for all ages. For more information on garden tours or questions about the botanical garden please click here.

Garden Exhibits

The Zoo is home to many designated horticultural displays and plant collections. Identification plaques and signs serve to distinguish significant plants throughout the botanical garden. Several tropical garden exhibits and collections are only available for display during the temperate season (March-October) depending on weather conditions. The following garden exhibits are available for year round viewing. 

Butterfly Garden

Located just southwest of the Noble Aquatic Center: Aquaticus and bordered by Zoo Lake on the east, the Butterfly Garden is a 20,000 square-foot exhibit designed especially for some of nature's most delicate creatures—butterflies!  As the largest, walk-through outdoor Butterfly Garden in Oklahoma, the garden is a color and texture extravaganza of more than 15,000 plants fashioned to sustain the complete life cycle of the butterfly.  Full color, educational graphics are placed throughout the exhibit highlighting the intricacies of butterflies and their importance in the surrounding ecosystems.  Because butterflies are attracted to nectar producing flowers; penta, lantana, verbena and coneflower are the primary flowers.  However, to entice the butterflies to remain in the area, nearly a quarter of the plants are host plants on which their caterpillar or larva will feed.  Other plants include several types of shrubs and trees to give the butterflies wind breaks and a safe roosting place in the winter.

Water Conservation Garden

The water conservation garden is located on the southwest side of the pachyderm building. This garden displays drought tolerant plants and displays the principles of water conservation gardening. This garden exhibit is a coordinated effort between the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust, The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, and the Oklahoma State University Extension. The garden serves a strong conservation message regarding our most precious natural resource--water! Check out the water conservation garden, and soak up some information on how you can help save water in your residential landscape.

Oklahoma Trails Exhibit

The Oklahoma Trails exhibit contains more than 70 different plant species, totaling approximately 4,000 trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials. The exhibit showcases Oklahoma native plants alongside native animal species. Travel through the 11 ecological regions of Oklahoma starting in the Black Mesa of the northwest and winding down to the Cypress Swamps of the southeast. Educational signs point out Oklahoma native plants along the way. Our zoological horticulturists planted more than 100 trees in the Oklahoma Trails exhibit for the 2007 Tree Banks Foundations’ Centennial Tree Grove program, celebrating 100 years of Oklahoma statehood.

Zoological Horticulture

The botanical garden provides an opportunity for our staff of zoological horticulturists to work alongside the animal keepers to provide animal browse and enrichment from our extensive garden system. Deciduous trees such as Elm, Mulberry, Hackberry, and Willow accentuate animal diets. These trees as well as bamboo, shrubs, and grasses make up a large portion of the browse supply grown on grounds throughout the temperate season. Our greenhouses provide a place for us to grow animal browse through the winter months. These include a variety of tropical including banana, ginger, cactus, citrus, sprouts, herbs, and sugar cane.

Living Collections

The botanical garden has 12 living collections consisting of native, tropical, deciduous, and evergreen flora. To date the botanical garden tracks over 5,000 plant accessions!

Dwarf Conifer Collection

This collection is located at the east end of the main parking lot in front of the Rosser Education Building. It showcases unusual types of dwarf coniferous plants.

Pine Collection

This collection represents both common and unusual pines. It is located next to the Dan Moran Aviary near the front entrance of the Zoo. Four species of pines are native to Oklahoma. They are Ponderosa Pine, Loblolly Pine, Pinyon Pine, and Shortleaf Pine.

Oak Collection

This majestic collection of mature and thriving oak trees is located in many areas around the Zoo, but the bulk of this collection can be seen through the Oklahoma Trails Exhibit.

Magnolia Collection

The magnolia collection is located throughout the Great EscApe exhibit, and displays many unusual cultivated species. This collection is temporarily under construction, but you can still view many of the trees throughout the area.

Cactus Collection

The cactus collection consists of many tropical and hardy cactus species. This collection is available for viewing in several areas around the Zoo with the main body of the collection displayed in Cat Forest near our Jaguar exhibit. This collection is available for viewing from May-October.

Agave Collection

The agave collection consists of many tropical and hardy agave species. This collection is available for viewing in several areas around the Zoo with the main body of the collection displayed in the water conservation garden southeast of the pachyderm building. This collection is available for viewing from May-October.

Cold Hardy Palm Collection

Our newest collection showcases palm trees that can withstand our freezing temperatures. This collection can be viewed all over the Zoo with the main body of the collection viewable in the main entry global plaza. Other specimens of merit are throughout the Cat Forest and Great EscAPE exhibit areas.

Orchid Collection

The orchid collection is currently housed in our production greenhouses.

Tropical Collection

The tropical plant collection is located outside the Canopy Food Court and exhibits many unusual tropical plants from around the world. This collection is available for viewing from April-October.

Bamboo Collection

Our bamboo collection is one of the largest displayed collections of hardy bamboo in Oklahoma. It is located in the Cat Forest and Great EscApe exhibit areas.

Flowering Bulb Collection

This garden collection contains over 30,000 specimens of flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, narcissus, iris and ornamental alliums with peak bloom time occurring throughout spring. The flowering bulb collection can be seen throughout the zoo grounds and includes a large display of naturalized and fragrant spring and summer flowering bulbs as well as many antique varieties.

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