Belize Botanic Gardens
Hidden in a scenic valley in the Cayo District, the 45-acre Belize Botanic Gardens is alive with plants from Belize and around the world. The Belize Botanic Gardens was registered as a non-profit organization in 1997, after being purchased and cleared as a personal replanting farm project by the late Zimbabwe-born Ken duPlooy and his wife, Judy in 1994.
The Mission of the Gardens is to grow, study and promote tropical flora of Belize, while focusing on future botanical development through research, education, conservation and sustainable agriculture, in addition to providing enjoyment for visitors. Visitors will enjoy exotic and local flora, tropical fruit trees, a native orchid collection, palms, conservation displays, and plants of the Mayan culture.
Upon entering the Botanic Gardens, visitors walk through an area planted with experimental fruit trees, with some fruit introduced from South East Asia, as potential alternative crops for Belizean farmers. Some include litchi, rambutan, longan and mangosteen, and are considered ideal alternatives to the traditional citrus and banana. Workshops and presentations will be held to promote these crops, and assistance will be provided to encourage the preparation of a finished product, such as fruit preserves.
The inland lagoon features a bird blind, where visitors can enjoy, from the shady lookout, the view of Jacanas, Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, Herons and Least Grebes as they swim in the pond. Migratory birds can also be seen during the winter months. In the future, the pond will be developed into a native Belizean mangrove habitat.
The Orchid House, built in 1999, is home to over 200 species of orchids native to Belize, as well as small palms, cycads and indigenous plants from around Belize. The plants used by the ancient Maya for medicine, food and construction, are also featured at the Gardens.
The Belize Botanic Gardens also focuses on exploring environmentally sound alternatives to agricultural trends, illustrating sustainable land use, alternative crops and organic insect control. Student groups may visit the gardens for research or field trips, and opportunities are also available for volunteers.
The gardens are still growing, and to help with development, donations are welcome, with annual membership opportunities. In addition to plant and habitat growth, there are plans to build a Visitor’s Center, Research Laboratories, a nursery, herbarium, classrooms and a small-scale commercial kitchen.