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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 no 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 garden 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, with the building of new structures and demonstration gardens. 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 more than 70 cities in Florida, 31 states and 13 countries, along with playing host to numerous events and special occasions each year.