Monday, April 8, 2013

Santa Barbara Zoo

Just because we love plants doesn’t mean that our family members feel the same. I could easily spend an entire vacation hunting for and looking at plants, but I know that my family would rebel. Therefore, it’s crucial to find places and activities that strike a balance between my interests and theirs. Zoos are perfect because everybody—kids and adults—loves animals, and the landscaping provides plenty of horticultural bang for the buck.

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Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta) and dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

Called “the Audrey Hepburn of zoos—petite, charming and beautiful” by the Food Network, the Santa Barbara Zoo is impeccably maintained and small enough to explore in one afternoon. While I did look at some of the animals, especially the California condors and the Channel Island foxes, I spent much more time admiring the plants, which ranged from the fairly commonplace to the downright exotic.

Let’s start with the trees. I noticed that some visitors never look up.

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That’s too bad because they miss sights like these:

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Elsewhere trees would be underplanted with society garlic or agapanthus. The Santa Barbara Zoo uses terrestrial bromeliads. I’m not sure what genus or species they were. They were fairly benign, without the spines or barbs of dyckias or puyas.

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As is the case everywhere else in Santa Barbara, succulents feature prominently in the landscaping.

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Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

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Agave attenuata

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LEFT: Euphorbia sp.
RIGHT: Cactus and Agave americana

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Three agaves

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Agave offsets removed by the gardening staff (yes, I was tempted to swipe one but didn’t)

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Aeoniums

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Crassula arborescens and aloes

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Senecio mandraliscae

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Senecio mandraliscae and Crassula arborescens

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Desert tortoise habitat with cactus (and a lizard)

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Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’

Interested in more exotic plants? No problem!

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LEFT: Bunya-bunya tree (Araucaria bidwillii)
RIGHT: Banana (not sure which species)

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I’m fairly sure these are pygmy date palms (Phoenix roebelenii)

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Not sure what these palm trees are

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Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana)

 

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Two dragon trees (Dracaena draco)

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Dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

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Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata)

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Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata)

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Peek-a-boo around a massive palm tree trunk

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Clivia miniata

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Clivia miniata

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Variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’)

While bamboo wasn’t as prevalent as I had hoped for, I found a few nice plantings:

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Weaver’s bamboo (Bambusa textilis)?

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Giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii)

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Bambusa multiplex

A few sun-drenched spots looked like they could be in the California desert. The next photo shows one of my favorite California natives, desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).

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Desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

And finally, my favorite animal at the Santa Barbara Zoo, a blue-and-yellow macaw (Ara ararauna). The two of us had quite a conservation. I don’t know what s/he was saying, but s/he seemed to like me!

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Blue-and-yellow macaw (Ara ararauna)

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4 comments:

  1. Really nice! I'll have to pay more attention to the plant life the next time I go to the St. Louis Zoo. I know it won't be as wonderful as some of these amazing specimens, but maybe there's something worth mentioning.

    Love the Draco -- of all the houseplants-that-turn-into-trees that you show me, these are my favorite. :)

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  2. I'm dying to go to Santa Barbara and these posts are making me want to go even more! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  3. Wow what a great beginning to my soggy PNW morning! I agree with Alan there is something so amazing about the Dracaena.

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  4. I LOVE the planting of this zoo, as well as the quirky comparison/reference to Audrey Hepburn! So many amazing specimens!

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