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 – August 2014


Original Watercolor by Kathy Stark as part of the Wilderness of North Florida's Parks Project

Original Watercolor by Kathy Stark as part of the Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks Project

Nature at Night

Saturday September 6 6-9 PM

September is an exciting time at the Arboretum, the weather will soon begin to cool down which makes for a great way to spend time outdoors. We will again be hosting our popular Member/Volunteer Appreciation event where we gather around the campfire to enjoy a night of food and festivities. Formerly known as the Owl Prowl, we have renamed this twice-yearly event “Nature at Night” to expand our program offerings. We will have wieners and s’mores, plus side dishes and drinks. There will also be live music, a nature-related program and guided trail walks through the woods to experience nature at night.

This is a special night to thank all of you for your support, so we hope you will join us. Please RSVP to info@jacksonvillearboretum.org and put “Nature at Night” in the subject line. Members and volunteers are free. You are welcome to bring household family members who are not members or volunteers, but we ask for a donation of $5 per adult and $2 per child to defray expenses. Please let us know the total number in your party. Attendance will be limited to 100 so sign up early.

Become a member by joining before the event or on the night of and enjoy this special night, which is one of the most popular benefits of membership. New members who sign up at the Individual Level ($40) or above will receive a free plant. The plants represent some of the types living at the Arboretum. What a great addition to your home garden. Become a member and help support the gardens.

If the event is canceled due to bad weather, we will re-schedule at a later date. Please dress comfortably and bring folding chairs. You may also want to bring bug spray and a flashlight.

CaLL For Artists

Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens 6th Anniversary Celebration

The Art of Nature Saturday, November 8, 2014

Application Due by September 15,2015

Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens will be celebrating its Sixth Anniversary on Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 9 AM to 5 PM. The celebration will include live music, storytelling, food, children’s craft, nature-related merchandise, workshops, demonstrations and other activities throughout the day.

As a part of the celebration the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens will be presenting sculpture throughout the garden. This is a non-juried event and has no theme – but use of natural materials and nature-themed creations are encouraged.

Last year’s inaugural event of The Art of Nature, held in conjunction with our fifth anniversary celebration, featured over 31 sculpture creations by 28 artists and was hugely successful. It was estimated that 1,500 people enjoyed the art and festivities and we expect an even bigger crowd this year. For a copy of the Call to Artists and Application Form, please e-mail mhgourds@comcast.net.

Arbor”Eat”um Wine and Food Fest


The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens will host its first Arbor”EAT”um Wine and Food Fest on October 25th, 2014. The limited attendance event will showcase some of Jacksonville’s best loved restaurants who will provide samples of their signature menu items. Included in the restaurant line up will be Biscotti’s, Harry’s, River city Brewing Company, Mudville Grille, Havana Jax, Dig Foods, Pastiche, and Bonos and many other are expected to join the party. The festival will also feature seasonal cheeses, desserts, and coffees as well as local craft beers and over 75 different selections of wines from around the world.

The event will be held lakefront at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens from 4-7 p.m. The Jaguars’ Jaxson DeVille will make an appearance and the North Florida Bluegrass Association will provide lively music for this festive “Wine in the Woods” fundraising event. Tickets will be available online for $50 per person or $90 per couple. Ticket price includes admission, a custom acrylic stemless wine glass, food and beverages and entertainment. Patrons must be 21 years of age to attend. Dress is whatever you are comfortable in- we encourage our guests to wear appropriate shoes and take advantage of the unique natural environment found at the Arboretum.

Please make plans to join us as we kick off the fall season with this exciting outdoor extravaganza. For more information and to purchase tickets visit our events page.

VoluNTeer Appreciation

Each year Boeing employees worldwide perform a global day of service. Boeing has chosen our Arboretum for this day of service for the past three years. This year on August 12 Eli Bekkum and 15 Boeing employees came out and worked with Arboretum volunteers. A new handicapped accessible trail was constructed from the new pavilion northward along the lake to the Lake Loop trail. In addition, two existing lake overlook areas were improved with railroad tie perimeters and crushed paving material to reduce erosion and control visitors. Both of the improved overlooks as well as a site for a new bench honoring Judy Stevens are also now handicapped accessible. We would like to give a big thank you to the hard working Boeing Employees.

Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization and you may not realize just how many it takes to run our organization. We have scores of dedicated individuals who help us promote and maintain the property, including gatekeepers, rangers, tour guides, workday volunteers, special project volunteers, conservation corps as well as committed individuals who handle plantings, watering, contractor coordination, etc. And we have many other “behind the scenes” volunteers who handle the other aspects of running a successful enterprise, including our website, social media , membership, public relations and community outreach, event planning, development & fundraising, programs, grants and volunteer coordination. So please join us in thanking all of our dedicated volunteers. We also welcome new volunteers and can use help in all of the areas noted above and will need volunteers for our three upcoming events in the fall, so if you have a special skill or interest, please email us at info@jacksonvillearboretum.org and let us know how you would like to help.

The Wilderness of North Florida Project

Renowned local artist, Kathy Stark, is using her talent to showcase and promote the beautiful natural parks within northeast Florida. The Wilderness of North Florida’s Park Project consists of completing a series of large watercolor paintings of our wild and beautiful park system, all within one hour of downtown Jacksonville. Ten paintings of eight parks are done, including the beautiful close up of the Arboretum’s Lake Ray (our featured image this month). More parks are on the proposed list to complete.

These paintings, in print form, will become a traveling print exhibit. Sketchbook Journal pages about each park – highlighting their features and history will accompany each print as well as highlighting the non- profit groups that preserve and protect our land and water. An affordable book for families will be published containing the park paintings and the Sketchbook Journal pages about the parks and the non-profit groups. Then, a traveling print exhibit, when shown around the area and elsewhere, along with the Book – will become useful tools to showcase to residents, students, visitors, and business investors, the wildness and beauty of the parks right here in our backyard. And inspire them to go there!

This is the REAL FLORIDA, Our Florida!

Kathy’s project is displayed at the Southlight Gallery, 201 N. Hogan Street, right around the corner from Hemming Plaza. Her original watercolor painting of the Arboretum can be seen at the gallery during the Downtown Art Walk on Wednesday, August 6th from 6 PM – 9 PM. You can also follow the progress of the project on the project’s Facebook page: The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks

Visit Facebook Page

Kathy has generously offered to donate a percentage of sales of the original watercolor and archival digital prints to the Arboretum if such sales are generated through an Arboretum connection. So consider purchasing the painting or a print to support the artist and her project as well as the Arboretum. Go to the Downtown Art Walk or visit her website: www.kathystark.com for more information or contact her at kartstark@bellsouth.net. Be sure to mention that you heard about this through the Arboretum. Kathy will also be participating in our upcoming anniversary event, The Art of Nature, on Saturday, November 8, so you can see her work there as well.

Living with Alligators

Alligators are a fundamental part of Florida’s wetlands, swamps, rivers and lakes. As top predators, they are critical for keeping aquatic animal populations in balance. Although most Floridians understand that we have alligators in our state, many do not know how to live with alligators. A better understanding of the facts can help ensure that people and alligators continue to coexist.

Small alligators eat insects, frogs, snakes, and small fish and turtles. As alligators increases in size, it will consume larger prey such as raccoons, wading birds, larger fish, small deer and even other alligators. Despite their fearsome reputation, alligators are not always on the prowl for food. Since they are cold-blooded, they only require about one-tenth the amount of food of animals that must regulate their own body temperature. Alligators only need about one pound of food per week during their active season. In the winter, they hibernate and don’t eat at all.

Alligators mate in the spring and the females build a nest and lay eggs. The hatchlings are about 8″ long and grow almost a foot a year for the first few years. Until they are about 3 feet long, baby alligators are prime targets for dinner by innumerable larger animals including raccoons, wading birds, large fish, and snapping turtles. Small gators stay near their mothers in a protected group called a pod. You should never approach a baby gator because its mama is certainly nearby. A female gator only mates again once she no longer has young to protect.

The small alligators that appear at the Arboretum from time to time probably come from a pod near where Jones Creek empties into the St. John’s River. These subadult gators are generally 4-5 feet long and have no enemies except humans; they are no longer part of a pod but have struck off on their own to establish new territories. These young wanderers are the ones that most commonly appear where they shouldn’t. In many cases, if left alone, these alligators will eventually move on to areas away from people.

We hope that you enjoy watching for our gator. Let us know if you see it out in one of the gator wallows. The best place to look for the gator is from the overlook at the top of the hill across from stonehenge. From there, you can keep an eye on the edges of the wallows where the gator stays during the day.

Please let other visitors who don’t receive this newsletter know that it is not safe to swim, boat, fish, or feed fish in waters where alligators may live. In the past 10 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received an average of nearly 16,000 alligator-related complaints per year. The Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program permits the killing of approximately 7,000 nuisance alligators each year. Gators longer than 4 feet cannot be relocated and are instead harvested. Licensed trappers are paid a small amount per gator for the removal service; the majority of their income is from the sale of the hides and meat of the nuisance animals.


  • There is an active gator colony nearby. Be aware of the possibility of alligators any time you are near Lake Ray or Jones Creek.
  • Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Never swim at night.
  • Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators. Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in Lake Ray or Jones Creek.
  • Alligators eat anything that is thrown at or near them. Do not feed fish in Lake Ray or Jones Creek; it will attract the alligators.
  • Alligators are attracted to the vibrations created by sudden movements of fish. No fishing and no fish feeding in Lake Ray or Jones Creek.
  • Alligators like to wallow out openings in the spatterdock as daytime resting spots. No boating in Lake Ray.
  • Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits feeding, harassing, killing or possessing alligators.

Automatic GaTE

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Arboretum and we need your help. We now have automatic gates but we still need gatekeepers. We need gate openers to check that the gates really did open and then drive through the parking lot and do a quick 5 minute task like stock the brochures, or empty one bag of trash into the dumpster, or wipe the mold off a trail head sign. Gate closers should check that the “in” gate closed automatically at 5 p.m. and then manually close the “out” gate once all the visitors have departed. We need Monday and a Thursday gate opener.

Please contact Head Gatekeeper Melanie Palmrose at almostancientpots@yahoo.com.

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