McKee Botanical Garden: A Vero Beach Oasis
One of the most well-known tourist and locals attractions in Vero Beach is McKee Botanical Garden. McKee’s Botanical Gardens is spread over 18 acres, all devoted to plants and flowers. This oasis is the brainchild of Waldo Sexton and Arthur McKee and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is said that the 1940’s, more than 100,000 tourists were visiting the gardens (McKee Jungle Gardens at that time), therefore making it one of Florida’s most popular natural destinations to see way back.
My favorites were the 300+ water lily plants blooming amidst the multiple ponds. Seasonally, look for historic pineapples, Bromeliads, orchids, Plumbago, and Medinilla Myriantha. I like that McKee is small so it doesn’t take that long to tour, plus it focuses on native horticulture.
McKee Botanical Garden’s gift shop has unique treasures and some plants for sale as well. My friend purchased a yellow Christmas cactus to take home to West Virginia. It has bloomed year after year.
Entering A Bamboo Haven
The magnificent Bamboo Pavilion was built in Colombia, disassembled and shipped by boat to Florida, where it was rebuilt at McKee Botanical Garden. It contains 350 stems of lignified bamboo. The roof alone made of over 9,000 Sabal palm fronds. Seminole Indian Chief Leroy Osceola supervised the attaching of the fronds process. There are many types of nature to admire in the botanical garden, including butterflies, dragonflies, and birds, as well as many whimsical stone footbridges crossing over to reflective ponds.
Bamboo Trivia: There are over 1,000 species of bamboo, varying in height, color, size and texture. Buddha Belly, a popular bamboo, is known for the swollen nodules on its stems (culms). Bamboo is a type of grass and is harvested to make floors, fabric, and furniture. It either exhibits a “running” or ” clumping” growth habit. The running types quickly take over a space and move into nearby places as well. Clumping types send up new shoots next to the old ones. The giant bamboo is known for its edible shoots.
Watch for the Hidden Gems
Along the paths, you will see many gems like bromeliads, orchids, interesting sculptures, and palm trees. The Hall of Giants contains a single piece of mahogany carved into a tabletop that is 35′ long. It is beautiful! I personally think the landscaping was up to well up to par, but there could stand to be many more signs labeling the species.
The gardens have received national attention by being shown in Better Homes and Gardens, Coastal Living, House and Garden, and Southern Living magazines, as well as being named one of “22 Secret Gardens – Soothing Places of Surprise and Sanctuary in the U.S. and Canada” by National Geographic Traveler. Quite impressive for our small town.
Visiting the botanical gardens is a great way to get out and see nature, plus an alternative to typical beach attractions. You might even catch an art class, yoga session, or cooking class at the gardens. Check McKee Botanical Garden Facebook page for upcoming events. Enjoy your visit.
McKee Botanical Garden Photo Gallery:
McKee’s Botanical Gardens is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10-5 PM and Sundays 12-5 PM. The admission prices are $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and youth, and $5 for children over 3.
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