Botanical Gardens

About the Gardens

Picture of Plant Shop

Immerse yourself in the beauty of our botanical gardens, located in the heart of Tampa, Florida and within the boundaries of USF. Spanning over 16 acres, our gardens include nearly 8 acres of natural woodland and another 8 acres of planted gardens with a focus on collections native to Florida. We also house extensive collections of exotic plants from around the world, including orchids and fruit trees.

Our mission is to promote environmental conservation and education through our programs and events. Staying connected with our community of plant lovers, sharing a passion for nature, and participating in  initiatives to protect and preserve our precious botanical heritage. 

We invite you to embark on a journey of discovery and inspiration at the Botanical Gardens at the University of South Florida. Come explore, learn, and connect with the wonders of the plant world through our website. Welcome to a world of botanical beauty and knowledge!



Butterfly on flower

When the USF Botanical Gardens was established in 1969, the Gardens were little more than disturbed woodlands, Lake Behnke was essentially a marshy wetland, Fowler Avenue was a two-lane road and the surrounding commercial development did not exist. There were few mature trees and very few people knew this small jewel existed. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Gardens served primarily as a teaching and research facility for the Biology Department at the University and its function as a public garden was non-existent.  

Nearly all of the mature trees now found at the Gardens were planted in the early 1970’s.  Most of the tropical palms and flowering trees froze in 1977 and again in 1983, but the natives escaped unscathed.  Replanting of the tropicals and the addition of other natives has been an ongoing process since the beginning.  Our structures also came about in the 1970’s. 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.


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, providing funds to hire part-time staff and make improvements to the Gardens' facilities.

Eumaeus atala butterfly

Eumaeus atala butterfly

The Plant Shop was established in 1994, increasing the visibility of the Gardens and this served to attract many new members and visitors as well as additional funds for the Gardens' development.  Plant festivals, Plant Shop sales, and memberships and donations became an important source of revenue.

New visitors from around the world discover the USF Botanical Gardens daily and we have become an important outreach component of USF. What began as a very modest exercise in 1959 has grown into something quite substantial.