Botanical Gardens at the Erie Zoo

While the majority of visitors to the Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens come to see the animals, many are surprised and impressed by the numerous gardens throughout the Zoo. Some gardens help create an environment for the animals similar to their natural habitat. Others are special gardens that display certain groups of plants or a particular garden theme.

As you explore the Zoo grounds observing the animals, also take time to appreciate the various gardens and many varieties of plants in bloom throughout the season. Plants can provide not only food, shade, and shelter for the animals but their colors, textures and fragrance provide sensory delights for the visitors.

The spring gardens start to come alive with tulips and flowering shrubs and trees. The summer landscape provides brilliant, colorful displays of perennials and annuals. Tropical plants provide yet another layer of drama adding a lush, dramatic feel to the landscape.

In response to visitor requests for identification of various plants in the zoo gardens, the horticultural staff created a guide "Exploring the Gardens by the Numbers". A printable pdf document is available here that provides common and botanical name information on over 100 plants marked with a number that corresponds to the same number in the guide. When visiting the Zoo, copies of this guide are available at the Gift Shop.

Download Gardens Map

In addition to the outside gardens, the Zoo Greenhouse contains numerous tropical plants for you to experience.

Children's Zoo

This garden provides opportunities for children to have fun with and learn about various plants and flowers. They can learn to identify plants that have animal names beginning with each letter of the alphabet such as Lambs Ear, Butterfly Bush, and Zebra Grass.  They can make their way through the willow tunnel created from Japanese willow shrubs, watch the butterflies feed on the Butterfly Bushes, and smell the many fragrant flowers in the garden. You can also find large flowering hibiscus, climbing clematis, Harry Lauder walking stick, purple smoke bush, and many other outstanding plants.

Wild Asia

To complement the Wild Asia theme, this garden includes large leaf tropical plants. The tropical lush foliage and ornamentals, including Bird of Paradise, Banana plants, and an Empress Tree, make up the feel of this garden.

The look is enhanced in the summer months by the addition of numerous annuals including a variety of colorful Coleus plantings.

Kiboka Path

The many wild grasses such as Wild Rye, Blue Lyme Grass, Porcupine, Fountain, and Prairie Sky Switch give you the feel of being in the African Savannah. The grasses blend in with the animal's natural surroundings giving them a feeling of security as if they were in their natural habitat.

Michele Ridge Rose Garden

This garden was developed through the generosity of friends of Michele Ridge, former first lady of Pennsylvania. This formal rose garden, enclosed with a boxwood border, features strong and hearty English-style shrub roses accentuated by holly bushes, catmint, and Russian sage.

Model Railroad

This model railroad garden features four scale trains on 450 feet of track and the trains are 1/29th the size of life-sized trains. The railroad and small-town setting are complete with miniature trees, shrubs and flowering plants including dwarf cotoneaster, hemlock, boxwood, rhododendron, Irish and Scotch mosses and dwarf elm trees.


As you step into the Greenhouse, you feel as if you have entered the tropics. Explore the displays for orchids, bromeliads, begonias, bird of paradise, bananas, palms, pencil cactus, monkey-puzzle tree, staghorn fern and many other exciting plants.

Julie King

Bordered by a large arborvitae hedge with a backdrop of hornbeam trees and Japanese willows is a lovely, tranquil, sloping woodland garden. Water gently flows down the hillside and rests in a pool. Within the garden is a majestic weeping purple beech, and a variegated dogwood adding a natural artistry to the garden.

Carrie T. Watson

This garden was created for the 1995 Erie Bicentennial with the support of the Carrie T. Watson Garden Club. Trees and conifers are the backbones of this garden including dwarf balsam fir, pyramidal European hornbeam, false cypress and Hinoki cypress.  Against this background, the garden comes alive in summer with the addition of colorful and dramatic annuals.