Monday, November 11, 2013

Bamboo and more at the Sacramento Zoo

When the kids were small, we would go on regular outings to the Sacramento Zoo; we even had a family membership at one time. Now that the kids are older, years go by between visits. However, this past Veterans Day weekend was so glorious that we decided to go.

The Sacramento Zoo doesn’t rank among the country’s top zoos but it’s a beautiful oasis on the edge of William Land Park, itself a peaceful island in the city (TripAdvisor ranks it as the #10 attraction in Sacramento.)

The fall color in Land Park is near its peak, and the short walk from our car to the zoo entrance was as close to autumn perfection as it gets around here.

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Most visitors come for the animals but for me the main attraction at the Sacramento Zoo are the plantings—and especially the bamboos. They are everywhere, and they lend an air of the exotic to the animal exhibits and the public paths.

Aside from a few clumps of Bambusa multiplex, all bamboos are of the running kind. The zoo must do a lot of maintenance on the bamboos. It’s obvious the stands are thinned regularly; I saw no congestion and no runaway culms. The overall effect is light and airy, exactly as it should be.

I can’t say for sure how many species of bamboo there are the Sacramento Zoo, but I recognized some of them (see IDs below the photos). I wish somebody would volunteer to create a bamboo map for the zoo. I sure would appreciate it :-).

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Phyllostachys aurea

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Phyllostachys bambusoides

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Phyllostachys nigra

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Phyllostachys aurea at the red panda exhibit

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Prayer flags amidst the bamboos at the red panda exhibit

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Near the gift shop I saw several plantings of horsetail rush (Equisetum hyemale), and I overheard somebody referring to them as bamboo. They’re not even closely related to bamboos, but looking at them up close, it’s easy to see why people would think that.

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But bamboos are only a small part of the plantings in the zoo. There are trees everywhere, and many of them are in their autumn glory right now.

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Other trees, like valley oaks and redwoods, looked gorgeous even without fall foliage:

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One of my favorite trees, Acacia baileyana, grows in the Australian section. No surprise there—it’s an Aussie native. Cootamundra wattle, as it is known down under, has feathery leaves, bluish-gray to silver, that are stunning up close. (A cultivar called Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is sold in the nursery trade; its leaves emerge a distinct purple.)

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Fan palms (Washingtonia sp., either robusta or filifera) are a ubiquitous sight in the park. I love photographing their trunks. On the left, the plant behind it is a yucca; on the right, a cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior).

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I only saw one type of succulent during our visit, this duo of octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana), and that was just outside the zoo:

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While most flowers were on the wane…

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… a few were still going strong:

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And finally, a few animal photos. I know this is a plant blog, but who doesn’t love pandas, giraffes, lions and flamingos?

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Red panda

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Red panda

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Masai giraffe

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Male lion

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American flamingos

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American flamingo

Sacramento doesn’t have a real botanical garden, but the Sacramento Zoo does a good job of stepping in with plants that look (and may be) exotic but clearly thrive in our Mediterranean climate.

16 comments:

  1. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!!

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  2. Awwww, the red panda is adorable. The zoo is such a great alternative to a botanical garden. I've been meaning to visit either the Seattle one or the Tacoma one for a while now, but have never gotten around to it. Soon.

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    1. I loved the red pandas too. I just wish they hadn't been sleeping so I could have seen their faces :-)

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  3. The animals are the top attraction but looks like it is also well worth visiting just for the plants alone. It continues to surprise how so many zoos now make such a great effort with their plantings and this is no exception.

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    1. Zoos have come a long way from the concrete wastelands of the 60s. I still remember how ugly the animal enclosures were when I was little.

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  4. This is one of your best posts in recent memory -- almost every photo is a jewel! The second red panda shot is one of my favorites.

    If I ever find myself in Sacramento, I'd surely want to stop at the zoo based on these photos alone.

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    1. Wow, what a compliment! I really appreciate your kind words, Alan.

      I hope you'll make it to Northern California again soon. Hopefully you'll have more time to do some exploring. I'd be happy to be your tour guide.

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  5. Looks like all the animals were sleepy. I remember taking the kids to the zoo. They liked it but went through it in a flash. They wanted to play in the play land. And I always got eaten up by moiquitos. LOL The color look beautiful there right now.

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    1. It *was* in the middle of the afternoon when I could easily have taken a nap, too :-).

      No mosquitos on Sunday, just beautiful weather.

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  6. Thank you so much for visiting the Sacramento Zoo and the amazing blog post! Our horticulturist and entire maintenance department work so hard to keep the ground looking lovely and it's nice for folks to notice. We'll be sharing your blog on our Twitter and Facebook pages as well. Thanks again!

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    1. It's been my pleasure. The grounds look fantastic, and I'm sure people notice. I'm glad I can help spread the word. Maybe one time it'll become the Sacramento Zoo and Botanical Garden :-).

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  7. These are amazing photos, i'm heading to the Zoo!

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  8. Was für ein wunderschöner Ort für Bambus-Liebhaber. Großartige Fotos, Danke.

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  9. Was für ein wunderschöner Ort für Bambus-Liebhaber. Großartige Fotos, Danke.

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