Posts Tagged ‘Plant Adventure Zone’

A Close-up on Carnivorous Plants

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

A Close-Up on Carnivorous Plants

by: Plant Adventures Program Specialist Brooke McMinn

A new adventure we began undertaking in the fall of 2014 is now complete! As of this summer, visitors to The Gardens are now able to see a conveniently located representation of a pitcher plant bog, or savanna, in the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone. A pitcher plant bog is a unique habitat created by an unusual combination of porous, infertile, strongly acidic soils, a high water table and an open tree canopy. A larger bog of similar type can be seen in our Kaul Wildflower Garden, but this new installation is part of our “Close-ups on Collections” program which features different elements of our larger garden collections in the easily accessible Plant Adventure Zone garden.

As part of our native plant conservation efforts at The Gardens, this new planting showcases several species of Sarracenia, a genus of carnivorous (meat-eating) plants. Sarracenia alabamensis, also known as the Alabama canebrake pitcher plant, is endemic to Alabama, meaning it does not naturally grow anywhere else in the world. S. alabamensis is classified as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Many of the other included species are also listed as threatened or endangered, each exhibiting their own special variations on the characteristic traits of the genus.

Pitcher plants are stunningly beautiful and grotesquely intriguing at the same time. The attractive venation, appealing aroma and unusual shape of the modified leaves lure unsuspecting insects into their depths. Once trapped inside a leaf, parts of the insect are dissolved in a small puddle called a phytotelma. The resulting solution of amino acids is then absorbed by the plant as food. This carnivorous modification is thought to result from the almost negligible nutrient content of the soils in which these remarkable plants grow. Other carnivorous plants which might be found in a pitcher plant bog, such as Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap) and Drosera sp. (sundews) are also included, along with an array of non-carnivorous native plants. If you are interested in touring the Plant Adventure Zone or would like more information, please contact Plant Adventure Zone Program Specialist Brooke McMinn at or 205.414.3914.

PHOTOS: Arrington Plant Adventure Zone Ribbon-Cutting

Monday, April 30th, 2012

(Director James Horton, Mayor William Bell, Sr., former Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr., former Mayor Bernard Kincaid, Executive Director Fred Spicer)

Arrington Plant Adventure Zone Ribbon Cutting

On Thursday, April 26, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens gathered with local dignitaries for the ribbon-cutting of the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone. The newest garden at Birmingham Botanical Gardens is an inclusive space that will serve all of the Birmingham community, but will be a new center for Plant Adventures. The garden’s namesake, Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr., joined current Mayor William Bell and former Mayor Bernard Kincaid at the celebration. Birmingham Parks and Recreation Commissioner Larry Cockrell delivered the invocation before District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott, Plant Adventures Coordinator Jennifer Sanders, Executive Director Fred Spicer and each Birmingham mayor addressed the crowd. Light refreshments were served following the ceremony in the Hodges Room and the Rushton Garden.

(Andrew Krebbs, Tricia Noble, James Horton)

(Larry Cockrell, Richard Arrington, Jr., Fred Spicer)

(Valerie Abbott, Larry Cockrell, Martha Espy)

(Fred Spicer, Richard Arrington, Jr., Valerie Abbott)

(Henry Ray, Tricia Noble, Lou Willie)

(Birmingham Parks and Recreation Commissioner Larry Cockrell, former Mayor Bernard Kincaid, District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott, former Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr., Mayor William Bell, Sr., Plant Adventures Coordinator Jennifer Sanders, Executive Director Fred Spicer)

Part I: Plant Adventures Prepares for an Exciting Future

Friday, February 24th, 2012

The Gardens eagerly anticipates the opening of the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone in late April. Today our Plant Adventures Coordinator, Jennifer Sanders, begins a series of posts on the vision for the future of the space and its programs.

People sure do love their plants.

The voice came from halfway down a hill covered in woody shrubs and rain-slicked leaves: “I’ve got to have a dogwood.” My first question was “Ma’am?” because I hadn’t known she was there. My second was “Are you okay?”

We were at the New Georgia Landfill for the city of Birmingham’s annual native plant dig. It was a damp and dreary Saturday afternoon earlier in February and we had meandered far down the road to see what we might find. As my eleven-year old dug up a respectable specimen of Vaccinium arboreum (Farkleberry), I wandered a few steps away. I first heard and then spotted the source of the voice, a woman wearing a red shirt, a yellow raincoat, and a considerable layer of mud. Her name, we learned, was Donna.

She was easy to miss, clinging as she was to the ground and the down end of an up-ended tree. As my daughter made several trips back up the hill with Donna’s shovel, bags, and recently-dug oak leaf hydrangeas, I stripped away layers of vines, took hold of Donna’s arms, and helped her pull herself out of the tree stump’s clutches and back up to the clearing..

Her first words as we emerged: “I slid down that hill, but I’ve just got to find myself a dogwood.”

As tactfully as possible, I wondered aloud that perhaps, with the rain coming down harder and a few treasures in hand, it might be time to make our way back toward the parking area. Donna spotted the Farkleberry my daughter had worked so hard to dig and, mistaking the combination of tape colors, said “there’s a dogwood.” With a protective maternal eye, I convinced her of its true lineage. A good thing, as I’d hate to have an altercation with a woman I’d just help climb out of a hole.

Undeterred, she headed down another path to continue her search.

Though we may not regularly risk life and limb in their pursuit, those of us who spend time at The Gardens sure do love our plants. Or, as Executive Director Fred Spicer will tell you, plants are not an option in our lives.  As we move forward with Plant Adventures, one goal of our programs is to tell the stories of what our plants mean to us — to all of us and to the world around us. It’s horticulture with culture mixed in. I hope that you will find ways to participate in the activities we are planning — and you’ll be hearing more from us about those in the weeks ahead.

Arrington Plant Adventure Zone Breaks Ground

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Pictured, L to R: Fred Spicer (Executive Director, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens), Melvin Miller (Director, Birmingham Park and Recreation Board), Councilor Valerie Abbott (City of Birmingham, District 3), Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr., Mayor Bernard Kincaid, Chuck Fausch (Mayor’s Chief of Staff), Henry B. Ray, Jr. (President, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens Board)

Arrington Plant Adventure Zone Groundbreaking

On September 9, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone, the new home for its Horticultural Therapy program. Former Mayors Richard Arrington, Jr. and Bernard Kincaid joined other Birmingham dignitaries before an invited crowd of more than 60 people. Refreshments were served to those in attendace at a reception following the ceremony. With expected completion in the Spring of 2012, the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone will serve as the new home for Alabama’s first Horticultural Therapy program.

Mayors Richard Arrington and Bernard Kincaid welcome guests to the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone


Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens Executive Director Fred Spicer begins the ceremony

Birmingham Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Larry D. Cockrell offers the invocation

Councilor Valerie Abbott (City of Birmingham, District 3) offers remarks on the proud attractions of her district

Mayor Bernard Kincaid addresses the crowd

Mayor Richard Arrington addresses the crowd

Joey Sheehan of Grayson Restoration and Joel Eliason of Nimrod, Long & Associates

Fred Spicer reviews the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone blueprint with Mayor Arrington at the reception

Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. and Mayor Bernard Kincaid

Fred Spicer and Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr.

Alleen Cater, Elna Brendel, Winyss Shepard, Helen Mills, Lucy Thompson

Melvin Miller, Kevin Arrington, Justin Arrington

Stanley Robinson, Tommy and Yates Amason

Bernard Kincaid and Larry Cockrell

Arrington Plant Adventure Zone Groundbreaking Set for September 9

Monday, August 29th, 2011

The Gardens Welcome Richard Arrington and William Bell

Former and Current Mayor to break ground on Plant Adventure Zone

BIRMINGHAM, AL –  Birmingham Botanical Gardens welcomes former mayor Richard Arrington and current mayor William Bell to the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone’s official groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, September 9 at 1 p.m. The Gardens will welcome the Board of Directors, The Gardens’ staff, community partners and volunteers to this exclusive event.

With targeted completion set for the Spring of 2012, the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone will serve the Birmingham community as a garden for therapeutic horticulture and wellness – a broad concept The Gardens hopes to redefine through its Horticultural Therapy Program.

The Gardens’ Horticultural Therapy program was the first of its kind in the state of Alabama. As this program continues to grow, it strives to move from a medical model and toward a holistic and inclusive view of human participation in the horticulture world. Medical research continues to point to the benefits of people-plant interactions. One of The Gardens’ roles is to facilitate such interaction in this unique, urban plant space and in outreach to the community.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama’s largest living museum with more than 10,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens’ 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.