It’s the bamboo that catches your eye at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and takes your breath away. Rising skyward in massive clumps, it seems almost impossible that so many varieties could grow in one spot, and yet, here they are!
Fees: $7 adults, $3.50 ages 6-13
Open: Mon-Wed & Fri, 9-5. Sat-Sun, 9 to dusk. Closed Christmas.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens has long been a favorite of my family for many reasons. The kids loved it – hiding in bamboo, getting lost in the Celtic knot maze, peering into sinkholes – and that was even before they added a children’s garden.
On 62 acres, there more than 14 distinct themed gardens fitted into natural habitats sloping down to Lake Kanapaha. Add an arborteum, a greenhouse brimming with orchids and bromeliads, a vinery, and the largest formal herb garden in the Southeast. This is also the southernmost spot where you’ll see trillium in bloom.
Here, too, is North Florida’s top collection of cold-hardy palms, including double-crowned cabbage palms, sago palms, and palm-like cycads. A spacious rock garden hosts a variety of succulents, including large century plants and the crown of thorns. In February, the southernmost patch of trillium blooms, with dogwood and azalea as accents. The Florida Champion bluff oak (Quercus austriana), 127 inches in circumference and 104 feet high, is among many natural treasures within the gardens.
As for the bamboo: this is the largest public collection in Florida. Nursery sales go on year-round, but folks come for miles for the Big Bamboo event each spring, when you can pick your own and have it dug up to take home (bring a pickup!) or simply buy cut pieces for landscaping.