Let Nature Challenge You


Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens

The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is a 120-acre urban woodland full of trails for you to explore and enjoy.

From the trailhead next to the parking lot, a stabilized walkway encircles a beautiful two-acre lake. This trail gently descends about 25 feet from to the foot of the lake and then returns up a gentle slope on the opposite side to the trailhead. Interpretive signs and over 100 labeled plants enhance the loop.

In addition, over two miles of rustic hiking trails wind quietly through a series of distinct ecological habitats.

Along the trails, benches invite you either to pause and enjoy the view or to get in a good stretch during a vigorous walk.

The Arboretum is developed and managed by the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, Inc., a non-profit entity that leases the land from the City. Except for special events, there is no admission fee.

News – April 2014

Photo: Moon Rising over Lake Ray at Owl Prowl by Priscilla Ford

Owl Prowl

Our member/volunteer only Owl Prowl on March 15 was a great success and as if on cue, the almost full-moon rose over Lake Ray to add to the beautiful evening.  Guests enjoyed a variety of delicious food offerings and roasted hot dogs over the fire and later marshmallows to make s’mores.  There were games for the kids, music by Jonathon Lynn, a talk & display about owls and a walk through the woods to call the owls.

Many thanks to our sponsors and committee volunteers, including: Jim Mace & Team Black, Soul Food Bistro, Certified Steak & Seafood Company, Fiji Natural Artesian Water, Russell Stover, Home Depot, Southern Wine & Spirits, Regal Theaters – Elaine Fowler, Jonathon Lynn – Music, Katie Lay – Graphics, First Coast Signs, REI Jacksonville and Willis Jones & his event committee – Carol Wyninger, Pete Miller, Ellen Lowman, Mary& Stewart Belet, Donovan Geoghegan, Jane Pope & Gail Beveridge.

Discovering Nature Nearby

As a continuation of the “Discovering Nature Nearby” series the Arboretum will be featuring a program on Edible & Medicinal Plants.This program will be presented by Beverly Fleming and Lesley Royce on Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 10-11:30 a.m.

Ms. Fleming and Ms. Royce will profile some historically edible and medicinal plants of Northeast Florida. They will also offer hints to participants on how to identify these targeted plants, many of which are commonly found in our area. Reference books will be available to view.

Beverly Fleming is a St. Johns County naturalist, retired from St. Johns County Parks & Recreation. She is also an author, and has written about nature as a columnist in Northeast Florida for the past 30 years. Lesley Royce is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources, a naturalist and past president of Duval Audubon Society.

This program is suitable for all ages, including families with children. Those under 18 must be accompanied by and under the supervision of an adult at all times.

Mark you calendars for upcoming programs.

Native Plants
May 3
9 am – Noon

Geocaching with a Smart Phone
June 21
9 am – 10:30 am


There are several new plants.  A cardboard palm (Zamia furfuracea) was added to the palm garden on the South side of the Lake.  The cardboard palm is misnamed because it is really a cycad and not a palm.  Leatherleaf ferns were also planted in the palm garden.  Satsuki azaleas (Rhododendron Hybrid) and holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) were added to the North Garden (on the North side of the Lake) in one of the areas next to the foot paths.  Simpson Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans) were added to the North Garden and West Garden.  The Simpson Stopper plant in the North Garden is a dwarf (‘compacta’) version of the same plant in the West Garden. While not entirely new, a Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) was moved from a nearly invisible location in the drainage swale to the West Garden.  Finally, one of our favorite plants, cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), was planted around two of the Live oaks near Stonehenge on the Lake Loop.

In March, the Pavilion at the east end of the Lake was completed (except for landscaping and finishing details).

WHAT’s Blooming ARound the Lake Loop?

Our winter was colder and wetter than normal and flowers that have usually completed their bloom by the end of March may still be blooming in April this year.   Likewise, plants that usually bloom in early April may be delayed for a few weeks.

Deciduous native Florida pinxter azaleas (Rhododendron canescens), Florida flame azaleas (R. austrinium), and silver bells (Halesia diptera magniflora) are blooming on the east end of the Lake (pinxter azaleas are also blooming on the Rosemary Trail, Live Oak Trail, Aralia Trail).   The Louisiana iris (Iris spp) should start their bloom before the end of April.   The iris are located in the outfall area (opposite the dock) and in a wet area near the weeping cypress (Taxodium distichum ‘Falling Waters’) on the East side of the Lake Loop.   Near the Jones Creek Overlook, the woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) is in bloom.  The red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), which is in the same vicinity, should also start blooming sometime during April.

In the North Garden, native White Indigo (Baptista alba) should begin its bloom by the end of April.   Redbuds (Cercis canadensis), dogwoods (Cornus florida) and Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum) started blooming in March should still be in bloom for a few days in early April.

Congratulations To Environmental Steward Lad Hawkins

On March 6, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown hosted the 22nd Annual Mayor’s Environmental Luncheon to highlight the accomplishments of the environmental community and honor those who have made significant strides and achievements throughout the year.  Thirteen local environmental groups presented awards to individuals and organizations for outstanding contributions to the environment, including the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group’s Live Oak Award to Lad Hawkins, who is on the Arboretum’s Board of Directors and one of its founders.

But there was one more award yet to be given – the Mayor’s Environmental Award – presented annually to an individual or group that demonstrates extraordinary work in protecting, restoring, enhancing and preserving the environment in Jacksonville.  At the luncheon, Mayor Brown presented this top award to Lad, a fitting tibute to this long-time comunity activist and environmental steward. Congratulations, Lad, for this well-deserved recognition!

Air Potato Roundup

Another year … another record. Over 70 volunteers collected 2322 lbs of air potatoes from the arboretum at the 8th Annual Air Potato RoundUp March 1. Air Potato is an agricultural introduction from southeast Asia gone wild. In one season the vines can grow 60 feet, draping themselves over vegetation and shading out the native plants. Air Potato is Florida’s version of Kudsu.

The majority of the potato volunteers were from area schools. Sandalwood High School’s Greenstate Environmental Club, University of North Florida’s biology and environmental science classes, and Florida Coastal School of Law’s Environmental Service Club all helped in the massive effort. Special thanks go to the JAG Conservation Corp for hours of time prepping the site and to all our Air Potato Chiefs for keeping us safe and on task.

At the end of the morning, we weighed our potatoes and measured the girth of the biggest potatoes. With a full days work behind us by noon, we took time to celebrate our results with some early Fat Tuesday King Cake and bags and bags of Mardi Gras beads. Thanks to Carol Wyninger for the delicious homemade King Cakes.

More Benefits For Arboretum Members

We are excited to introduce our new membership levels, which were announced at our March 15 Owl Prowl and are effective from that date. These new levels now have added benefits that will appeal to all of our current and prospective members. Benefits include but are not limited to Members’ Only Owl Prowls, discounts on Arboretum merchandise, and at certain levels, a year’s subscription to Better Homes & Gardens Magazine and a Reciprocal Agreement with other American Horticultural Association (AHS) organizations. If you and your family are travelers this is a great reason for an upgrade. Please take a look at the new levels and consider joining or upgrading to receive even more advantages at the higher levels.Those joining or renewing their memberships from March 15 forward are eligible for the added benefits.

As a not-for-profit organization, the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, Inc. depends solely on donations of time and money. Our members are the primary source of funding for operations and maintenance. As a member, you become a vital part of our mission of cultivating a unique environment for recreation, education and inspiration.

Be Aware

Last year professional thieves moved up and down the coast of Florida targeting recreational areas in North Florida, including the Arboretum, for smash-and-grabs. Windows on cars were broken and purses grabbed. The breakins took only minutes before the thieves (who were believed to be middle-aged women) were gone. Please be observant and do not leave valuables or purses in your car where they are visible or unprotected.

If you see any suspicious activity, or if you have seen anything that could assist JSO in their investigation of this type of crime, please contact JSO. If you see any suspicious activity and have a cell phone or camera with you, a photo of the person, their car, or their license plate could be helpful. Contact us at

Save the Date!

Pavilion Dedication
Friday, April 25
2-3 pm
Please join the Board of the Jacksonville Arboretum as we cut the ribbon to our new pavilion on Friday, April 25 from 2-3 PM.

This handsome covered shelter offers our visitors a shady spot to rest and take in the view of Lake Ray and will also be used for special events.  We look forward to seeing you at this celebration.

Recycle Your Leaves

If you are raking oak leaves, please bring your bagged leaves to the Arboretum. Just leave them at the front entrance by the drop off (near the water fountain) and we will spread them in the gardens. Thanks.

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