The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

A Rich Tapestry of History and Nature

Nestled in the heart of Sarasota, FL, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a captivating oasis that marries the beauty of nature with a rich tapestry of history. Established in 1973 through the generous bequest of Marie Selby, a devoted gardener with a passion for preserving natural beauty, the gardens have since blossomed into a celebrated haven for botanical enthusiasts and history aficionados alike.

The original 15-acre Downtown Sarasota campus stands as a living testament to Marie Selby’s vision, featuring a mesmerizing banyan grove that was planted by Marie and her husband, William, nearly a century ago. This iconic grove serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of the gardens’ founders, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the timeless allure of nature.

The gardens expanded in 2020 with the adoption of the Historic Spanish Point as a second campus. Located less than 10 miles from the Downtown Sarasota campus, this cultural landmark boasts an awe-inspiring archaeological record that spans approximately 5,000 years of Florida prehistory. As visitors wander through the grounds, they are invited to explore the heritage of the region through an ancient shell midden and a collection of historic structures, offering a captivating glimpse into the area’s rich past. Notably, the Historic Spanish Point campus also stands as a testament to the gardens’ commitment to preserving native flora, housing one of the largest preserves showcasing native Florida plants. This dedication to conservation is further underscored by the gardens’ distinction as the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, and ferns, along with other tropical plants.

Today, Selby Gardens’ two campuses, established by forward-thinking women of their time, offer visitors an expansive 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries. These sanctuaries not only provide a serene escape for connecting with native nature but also serve as invaluable educational resources, offering visitors the opportunity to delve into the captivating world of tropical plants and regional history.

A Legacy of Philanthropy and Love for the Outdoors

Marie Selby’s story is one of adventure, passion, and a deep love for the great outdoors. Born in Wood County, West Virginia, in 1885, she was introduced to nature at a young age during her family’s camping and hiking trips along the Ohio River. This early exposure fostered in her a lifelong love for the natural world. Marie’s adventurous spirit was further evidenced when she became one of the first women to cross the country by car, inspired by the country’s first cross-country automobile race.

After marrying William Selby, a partner in the Selby Oil and Gas Company, the couple settled in Sarasota, where they purchased seven acres of land bordering Sarasota Bay and Hudson Bayou. Little did they know that this property would eventually become the site of a renowned botanical garden. Following William’s passing in 1971, Marie left her property and a generous endowment of $2 million for the development of what would become the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Moreover, the William G. & Marie Selby Foundation, initially established as a charitable trust of $3 million, has continued Marie’s philanthropic endeavors. The foundation has gifted over $120 million to individuals and organizations, contributing $3 million annually for scholarships and local community grants. Even after her husband’s passing, Marie remained active at the foundation, matching grants and encouraging giving—a true testament to her unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on the community.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Today

A Paradise for Plant Enthusiasts

With a staggering collection of over 20,000 greenhouse plants, complemented by thousands more in the outdoor gardens, the Gardens serve as a living museum of botanical diversity. Visitors can wander through eight awe-inspiring greenhouses, including the enchanting Tropical Conservatory – a rare gem that offers a year-round spectacle of extraordinary flora for public enjoyment.

Designed to be an immersive educational experience, the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden opened in November 2013, as an innovative garden featuring interactive stations that beckon children and families to embark on an adventure through the captivating world of rainforest plants and habitats.

With over 200,000 visitors gracing its grounds annually, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has firmly established itself as a revered center for botanical research, education, and conservation. Its enduring legacy as a premier destination for plant enthusiasts is a testament to the Gardens’ unwavering dedication to preserving the beauty and significance of botanical wonders.

Check out this article next

Top 10 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready for the Spring Market

Top 10 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready for the Spring Market

Spring tends to be a popular season in the world of real estate with a bump in activity, so if you are thinking of selling…

Read Article