Disney's Animal Kingdom: The Largest Garden in the World?

It wouldn't be a stretch to call this Disney theme park one of the largest botanical gardens in the world. With 500 acres composed of over 3,000 species of plants from around the world, put together with an incomprehensible budget and limitless human resources, its hard to find a more impressive public garden. Did I mention that they have the largest collection of flowering trees in North America? Mrs. Rainforest Gardener and myself don't typically visit theme parks, but for a tropical garden of this magnitude, we made an exception.

Tourists visit Animal Kingdom for the rides, attractions and of course, the animals. The first day of our visit was spent cramming in as many rides and shows as possible. The second day was spent wandering around at a leisurely pace and admiring the flora, fauna, and the impeccably convincing work of Disney's imagineers. Every restroom, barrier and snack stand was thoughtfully created and detailed to fit into it's environment, be it an elaborately painted bus retrofitted as a snack cart, or a rutted "dirt road constructed of stained, textured, and imprinted concrete.

From a Disney press release dated 2-23-10:
"Unlike the traditional Disney parks where the landscaping complements themed buildings, at Disney's Animal Kingdom the landscaping, in many areas, is the stage and set."

And the plantings were phenomenal. Imagine being in an enormous cretaceous theme garden, surrounded by towering tree ferns, podocarps and cycads (the third largest collection of the world), the same food that a brachiosaurus would have called a decent buffet! In the Oasis, you crane your neck toward the treetops and try to count the myriad orchids, bromeliads and cacti nestled in the canopy. This area is heated during freezes, in case any other gardeners in Central Florida like myself get any bright ideas.

If you're bouncing along on the Kilimanjaro Safari, take a look at the acacia trees with the wide flattened tops. Looks like a scene straight out of Africa, right? Well, while the Senegal date palms and palm grass might be authentically African, the acacias are actually live oaks with vigorous overhead pruning. Once again home gardeners, don't get any bright ideas.

I bet you're itching for some pictures by now, right?

The Cretaceous Trail

Outside the Yak and Yeti, home of one delicious seafood curry.

Bromeliads and Asplenium nidus clinging to the boulders.

A shell ginger blooming outside an aviary

A naturalistic path through a canyon

Epiphytes! I lost count of the different orchids, bromeliads and rhipsalis.

Huge alocasias lining the water in a ravine

A misty jungle trail. I want foggers!

Check out this amazing faux treatment and signage. I love the lettering.

Is anybody else thinking of doing something like this?
You would think that the tourists were admiring the alocasias, but they were just gawking at a bird or something.

Who wouldn't want to buy a snack from this cart?

Want more photos? Visit my album for the rest!


  1. I too spend most of my time at the parks admiring the plantings. I haven't been to Animal Kingdom yet but I think you have convinced me to make the trip!

  2. You'll be blown away by this one! I could go every week and still find something new.

  3. gosh how beautiful - so many ideas... Ok I am off into the garden.

  4. Now I really want to go to this place. How gosh darn gorgeous. And that one shot of the epiphytes must have had Mrs. Rainforest frustrated from keeping you climbing the trees! LOL What a great time it looks like you had. Now I'm going to click the album!

  5. Very effective use of such plants - probably a better climate for much of that than the last Mickey-place I saw in Disneyland in So Cal. I like the creative pruning to create effects of African acacias, too. But my favorite thing is when you said the plants in one area are "the stage and set".

  6. Arrggh! I wasn't into plants yet when I last visited. I would have fit in quite well with your tourists gawking at birds. 3rd largest collection of cycads. Hmmm! Should I plant chase my way back to Florida, do you think?

  7. africanaussie: Glad you liked it! :)

    Candy: Mrs. Rainforest Gardener has gotten used to me by now, so I just climb into the trees when she isn't looking. ;)

    David: They really took the landscaping seriously here! I think that's one of the reasons that it looks so natural compared to the other parks.

    Bom: Yeah! Come visit Florida again! The cycad/dino garden was out of this world.

  8. erm... do they allow people living in tents under their trees?

  9. Wow, Steve, JEALOUS!!! Those Alocasias are amazing...

  10. And from this I get: So your wife took you name? Is it easier to spell or pronounce than her maiden name is? It can't save keystrokes when filling out the tax returns. ;-)

    My family very much enjoyed Disney's Animal Kingdom... but we can get down with any well-thought-out theme park.


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!