Article and Photography by Alice Mary Herden
The Botanical Gardens located at the corner of E. Fowler Ave, and Bruce B. Downs Blvd in Tampa, Florida offers more than just an educational tool for students, it’s an oasis for any nature enthusiast.
In the late 1960s, this small area was initially used for education and research for the university, and over the years it grew into something more. “It’s used by a lot of entities on campus for their research,” states Laurie Walker, Director for the Botanical Gardens. Laurie has been involved in the gardens for many years, starting as a volunteer. “I started volunteering when I was in school and fell in love with it, There’s something about being outside connected to nature, that is very healthy.”
The 16-acre property lies on the south tip of Lake Behnke. There are hundreds of plants to see, featuring a vast array of flowers and orchids. It is a dream location for artists and photographers.
The gardens consist of flowering trees, cactus, succulents, a butterfly garden and a wetland forest with a wide diversity of plant species. “Our goal here does not only feature native plants in a native setting, but we also grow plants from all over the world,” Walker said.
For 25 years Kim Hutton has been involved with the gardens. She serves as Coordinator for Special Events and Volunteers. She states, “the nice thing about the garden is that we have volunteers that take ownership of their different areas. I really like that because they put their signature on it, it’s their creativity and their expression.”
Interns Hena Niazi and Savannah Fransbergen, both majoring in environmental science and policy, use the gardens as part of their internship. Hena said, “It’s part of a program we have for environmental science and policy majors. You can do a project or internship, and I chose an internship here.”
Both Hena and Savannah are tending to the medicinal garden. It gives them the opportunity to learn about the variety of health benefits these plants offer as well as their sustainability.
It is worth the trip to visit this little oasis. It takes you out of the busy areas of Tampa to a serene area of harmony.
Laurie Walker states, “you have to understand the world around you, you have to see it, and if you see it then you're more likely to protect it, you're more likely to be passionate about it.”
The Spring Plant Festival is coming up soon, April 13th and 14th. Hutton said, “The spring festival is our bread and butter. It’s a party for plants.”
For information about the USF gardens go to:
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday, noon - 4 p.m.
Seniors (60+) $4
Children (6-13) $3
Students $1 (with valid USF ID)
Admission is free for USF Botanical Garden members and children under 6.
USF Botanical Gardens
12210 USF Pine Drive, Tampa, FL 33612