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A Hidden Jewel: USF’s Botanical Gardens

Tucked away on the edge of Tampa's USF campus is a little-known oasis: the USF Botanical Gardens. The gardens, founded in 1969, provide students and visitors with a unique look into Florida's natural beauty.

On April 14th, the gardens held its 23rd annual Spring Plant Festival. That’s when growers and botanical aficionados are invited to showcase their crops and flora for a two-day event.

The gardens’ program coordinator, Kim Hutton, says this festival is unique.

"You can go to a lot of different places and buy plants, but when you come out to the festival, you're actually talking to people who grow the plants,” Hutton said. “They know how to grow them; they know the right plant for the right place."

Newcomers to Florida hoping to grow their own plants should expect growing conditions which are unique to the Tampa area, Hutton said.

"A lot of people want to put in hostas, and what we have to do is let them know what great plants you can grow here,” she said. “Because you can't grow the hostas, but you can grow gingers and plumeria, you can grow so many tropical plants in this area."

Experts and volunteer staff members are always on hand to give insight into the flora on display, which range from the aforementioned ginger and plumeria to various cacti, flowering plants, fruit trees, palms, aroids, carnivorous plants, cycads, bamboo and even various species of banzai plants.

The grounds feature areas representing Floridian biomes, like a wetland forest, a temperate forest, a subtropical shade garden and uphill scrubs, to which many different native animals and birds are attracted. The grounds also feature an area set aside for beekeeping.

The USF Botanical Gardens Spring Plant Festival took place on April 14th and 15th, but the gardens still remain open to the public. They are located on the southwest edge of the USF campus.

Those who are interested can visit the gardens’ official site.

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