About Us


History of the USF Botanical Gardens



When the USF Botanical Gardens was established in 1969, the Gardens were little more than wilderness, Lake Behnke was small and marsh-like, Fowler Avenue was a two-lane road and University Mall did not exist. There were few pine trees, only native oaks. Very few people knew this small jewel existed. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Gardens served primarily as a teaching and research facility for the Biology Department at the University.

In the early 1970s, many of the temperate, subtropical and tropical trees and shrubs seen in the Gardens today were planted. The greenhouses were moved from a nearby police station to their present location on-site, and the gardens were enclosed by fencing. A concrete block building was created to serve as a potting shed and storage structure.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, the palm garden was established and the wetland forest and sand scrub beds were planted. The conservatory was built as a venue for classes and workshops, as well as to display flowering plants.


The Gardens experienced tremendous growth beginning in the 1990s, when it was opened to the public. The addition of new structures, demonstration gardens and plant collections began in earnest.  Volunteer and membership programs were established as well as the semi-annual plant festivals. These efforts were quite successful, prviding funds to hire part-time staff and make improvements to the Gardens' facilities.

The Plant Shop was established in 1994, increasing the visibility of the Gardens and attracting many new members and visitors and addititonal funds for the Gardens' development.  Plant festivals, Plant Shop sales, memberships and donations became an important source of revenue.

The USF BG educational objectives include collections, displays, workshops and signage focusing on:  native plants, plant diversity, the relationship of plants to Florida's climate, geology, wildlife and cultural heritage, while promoting environmental appreciation and stewardship of the local flora. As a result, many new visitors have discovered the USF Botanical Gardens. The gardens serve as an important outreach component of USF with visitors from around the world.