Beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida

The southern states have a charm all their own. From beaches to deserts, there is a wide array of landscapes to please almost anyone!

Orchids in bloom

Orchids in bloom

There are literally hundreds of botanical gardens spread all across the landscape of America, and each offers its own special beauty. What sets the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, apart from all the other gardens is its focus on specializing in, showcasing, and studying epiphytic plants. From orchids and banyan trees to bamboo, one can find all sorts of wonders at the Selby Gardens.

Epiphytes and Air Plants

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, epiphytes are those that live by existing on other plants. Epiphytic plants generally use other plants for support, deriving their nutrients and moisture from the air.

Good examples of epiphytes are orchids, bromeliads, and Spanish moss. At the Selby Gardens, unusual and distinctive flowers of every hue and color imaginable can be enjoyed while viewing many of these distinctive forms of flora.

Sometimes epiphytes are referred to as air plants. Many of these epiphytes have cupped leaves in which to catch available rainwater or have roots dangling to absorb every bit of moisture from the air. Occasionally, their roots encase and actually cause the death of the host plant, but this is not always the norm.

The Selby Gardens and Foundation

When my mother and I visited my aunt and uncle in Florida in 1998 they took us to see the Selby Gardens in Sarasota. What a feast for the eyes! At that time, there were seven greenhouses maintaining over 20,000 plants. Visitors can see amazingly colorful and exotic orchids, bromeliads, and other flora in a tempered year-round environment.

An orchid identification center as well as a bromeliad identification center makes one aware of plant names as one browses through this massive display. Just about every orchid found in the world can be located here at the Selby Gardens!

The Selby Foundation helps fund research and education as well as having an impact on other programs impacting people in the Sarasota community.

Many volunteers help keep the gardens in tip-top shape and also help with the many social and cultural activities held in the gardens each year.

The Marie Selby Grounds

Wandering the paths of the Selby Botanical Gardens outdoors takes one on a journey through many acres planted with different focus areas. Included are categories of plantings such as the following:

  • Live Oak Grove
  • Bamboo Pavilion
  • Banyan Grove
  • Hibiscus Garden
  • Palm Grove
  • Mangroves
  • Koi Pond
  • Wildflower Garden
  • Azalea Garden
  • Herb Garden
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Baywalk, etc.

Of course, there are also greenhouses, the Selby House, museum shops, other places hosting activities, and the research and the learning center. One can also purchase plants here.

We truly enjoyed strolling through the different parts of this gorgeous garden which borders Sarasota Bay and the Hudson Bayou.

Marie Selby

Marie was born in West Virginia in the year 1885 and was first called by the name of Mariah Minshall. Her dad was a geologist and invented some parts for oil drilling equipment.

Marie's future husband, William, was a partner with his dad in the Selby Oil and Gas Company which later became known as Texaco Oil Company. William and Marie married in 1908 and shared an interest in cross-country automobile racing, camping, boating, and fishing. Marie Selby was happy to have a home built on the site of what was to become the Selby Botanical Gardens years later. William and Marie also had a ranch home in Montana.

Despite being multimillionaires, they lived a relatively quiet life. They loved outdoor activities, which led them to be members of the Sarasota Yacht Club, and Marie became a charter member of the first garden club in Sarasota. She designed the landscaping of their homesite along Sarasota Bay and gradually kept expanding it.

After William died in 1956, Marie continued to live there until her death in 1971. She left the property to the community so that the public could continue to enjoy the gardening efforts that she had initiated and nurtured into the beautiful botanical garden that it has become today.

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened to the public on July 7, 1975. The garden has been expanded to include the acreage included today with the help and oversight of the board of directors overseeing the operation along with the help of countless volunteers.

We were so happy to be introduced to this beautiful garden by my aunt and uncle. We got to see plants and trees that we had never previously viewed. The Australian Grass Tree was a most unusual sight. I also found the Bo Tree and its leaves to be most interesting.

The Moreton Bay Fig Tree roots were a thing of beauty. They were large enough to sit upon, in some cases rising up several feet above the ground. The roots of this tree are definitely distinctive and different from most other tree roots.

This photo shown below was used as subject matter for a limited edition lithograph that I produced.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Moreton Bay Fig Tree at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

There were surprises like a sculpture found amidst the interior of a banyan tree. The bamboo forest was tall and offered a shaded rest spot on a warm, sultry day. The koi pond was serene and the colorful fish swam amidst the tropical foliage surrounding that spot with the sound of a small waterfall in the background.

Overall, exploring the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a most pleasant experience, as it is filled with the largest collection of epiphytes that you will probably ever see on American soil.

The other varied plant collections such as the banyan trees and stands of towering bamboo add to the magnificence of this Sarasota garden. I would heartily recommend a visit if you enjoy touring gardens and are in this area of Florida.

If you cannot get there in person be sure to look at this fantastic video!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 14, 2017:

Hi Roberta,

I am so pleased that you enjoyed this article about the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. Hopefully you will see it for yourself in person someday.

RTalloni on November 13, 2017:

This post makes me want to pack up and go there now. Thanks for sharing some history of the Selby's lives and Marie's work with your photos and vids. It would be amazing to see it all first-hand.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 07, 2013:

Hi Patricia,

Have fun with your grandson when you visit these beautiful gardens. Hope you always are surrounded by angels! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 07, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

Cypress Gardens was spectacularly beautiful in its day and time. I have not seen it since they turned it into Legoland. I would rather remember its beauty of the past. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is another beautiful garden in the state of Florida. So many attractions in that state! Thanks for the shares.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 07, 2013:

This is such an amazing place. I have written about these same gardens Peggy right here on HubPages. I am going down there with my grandson in a few weeks as the children's section is supposed to be really special. Thank you for sharing this.

It is one of Florida's special little secrets. Angels are on the way ps

C E Clark from North Texas on September 07, 2013:

Gorgeous photos! This looks so interesting. Cypress Gardens are the only gardens of this sort I have ever toured and it was so beautiful and interesting. This looks great too. I've given in another 5 stars, voted up and beautiful/awesome, pinned to my 'Purple II' board, and will share!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 18, 2012:

Hi Maralexa,

Thanks for your nice comment on this hub about the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. If you paint the orchid at the top, hope you write a hub about it showing it. Would be fun to link to this hub! Thanks for your votes & comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 18, 2012:

Hello moonlake,

I hope that you can wander through a botanical garden someday. The way that you like nature, it would be a treat. Thanks for viewing and commenting on this Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Florida.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 17, 2012:

Hi Alicia,

It is my pleasure to be sharing hubs about beautiful places like the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens with you and others. Thanks for your nice comment.

Marilyn Alexander from Vancouver, Canada on May 17, 2012:

Simply beautiful, Peggy. You and your friend are excellent photographers! I look forward to using the picture of very large orchid as a subject of one of next brush paintings. You write such good hubs I am glad that Cindy brought this one through again.

Thanks so much for a lovely experience. Up and Awesome!

moonlake from America on May 17, 2012:

You have been to so many great places. I always wanted to go to a botanical garden but have never made it to one. Enjoyed your hub. Voted Up

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 17, 2012:

I love visiting botanical gardens, and if I can't visit them in person the next best thing is to read articles like this and look at the photos and videos. I'm very glad that you create hubs about your travels, Peggy - they're always so enjoyable to read! The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens look beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 17, 2012:

Hi homesteadbound,

I hope that you do get to see the Marie Selby Gardens someday. While these pictures give you some idea of the beauty to be found there, it is nothing like being there in person. Thanks for your comment.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on May 17, 2012:

What a truly great hub, and the pictures were out of this world. If we ever make it to Florida again, I will have to visit these gardens.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 17, 2011:

Hi Happyboomernurse,

What a nice thing to say...that the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida was a highlight of your trip to Florida. Obviously you like gardens and I am very happy that you enjoyed them as much as my mother and I did some years ago. Thanks for the comment!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on January 17, 2011:

We just got back from our Florida trip and because of this hub, I had made sure that the Marie Selby Gardens would be on our itinerary and I'm so glad I did. The gardens were as beautiful as the photos in this hub and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 14, 2010:

Hi Lisa Marie Knautz,

Nice that you also have your memories of visiting the beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. All of those banyon trees and many types of epiphytes make it really special along with the location. It's a real gem. Glad that you liked this hub. Thanks for the comment.

lisaknautz from Sarasota, Florida on December 14, 2010:

I have many happy memories of visiting the lovely Marie Selby Gardens. Great article!

Lisa Marie Knautz

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 04, 2010:

Hello Tony,

I also love visiting botanical gardens and other types of gardens and have seen quite a few on our travels to different areas. This one, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida really did concentrate on all different types of epiphytes which made it special. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on December 04, 2010:

I love botanical gardens and this one really looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing this. We here in South Africa are also blessed with many botanical gardens and nature reserves.

Love and peace


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 03, 2010:

Hello Happyboomernurse,

My aunt and uncle who used to live part of the year in Florida took us to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota because they thought that we would enjoy it...and we certainly did. The Sarasota area has many treasures! Have fun on your visit.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on December 03, 2010:

Wow Peggy,

I'm so glad I saw this absolutely awesome hub as my husband and I will be visiting a friend who lives near Sarasota in a few months and I knew nothing about this great treasure that will be nearby. Can't wait to go there. I've bookmarked this hub and rated it up.

Thanks again for the stunning hubs you do about flowers and plants. I always learn so much from them and it makes me appreciate what I'm seeing so much more.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2010:

Hello Florida Collection Agency,

Yes, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are great. Thanks for the tip regarding the Morikami Gardens!

Florida Collection Agency on September 14, 2010:

Wow...looks like a great botanical garden. If you are ever in Boca Raton, stop by the Morikami Gardens.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 05, 2010:

Hi Billy,

Happy to hear that you enjoyed these photos and trip idea regarding the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. We have always enjoyed touring gardens in different areas of the country. Thanks for the visit and comment.

billyaustindillon on August 04, 2010:

That fig or banyan tree that you created the lithograph is stunning I have seen a few of these around the Pacific they really are magically and especially the way the light plays on them. More great photos and another great trip idea - thanks Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 22, 2010:

Hello sarasota-florida,

What a great place to hold a reunion! As you say, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are beautiful and certainly large enough to host events like your high school reunion. Have a great time there!

sarasota-florida from Sarasota Florida on July 22, 2010:

Very nice hub Peggy! I love the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. It is one of the most beautiful places in Sarasota. We are having an event there this weekend for our 20 year Riverview High Shool reunion.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 23, 2010:

Hello gpetrou85,

Happy to hear that you liked this hub about the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 08, 2009:

Hello WannaB Writer,

I'm also a "wannab writer." Just something I started since discovering hubpages. Great name!

If this is the best hub you've read thus far...you are in for a real treat. There are some excellent writers here on hubpages!

Happy that you liked this hub about the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. It is just one of many beautiful gardens all across our nation.

Happy to have you joining us. Will look forward to more articles from you.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on August 07, 2009:

Great hub. Discovered it in a search for something I'm thinking of writing a hub about. I'm new, and so far this is one of the best hub pages I have read.

gpetrou85 from greece on May 02, 2009:

very nice,good hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 30, 2009:

Thanks Celesta, Glad you enjoyed this hub. Thanks for commenting.

Celesta on April 30, 2009:

Excellent text and beautiful pictures. It is very educational and interesting. Botany 101!!!!

I always enjoy reading your hubs. Keep up the good work.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 30, 2009:

Hello LifesStudent, BTW, I really like the name you have chosen for your hubpage account. The most interesting people are life students! Glad you liked this hub.

How tall does your bamboo get in pots? Must be a dwarf variety? We used to have a bamboo palm tree in a pot. Got to be about 6 to 7 feet tall.

Those small orchids must be beautiful when you happen across them in a forest. Nice surprise indeed. Thanks for commenting.

LifesStudent on April 30, 2009:

A great bunch of photo's Peggy they certainly showcase a wonderful garden. I have to say my favourite is the bamboo! I just love it and have lots of it growing in pots here in Australia. I find it interesting to see such huge flowers on the orchids and of course I've seen them growing but in complete contrast our native orchids are absolutely tiny, with the smallest flowers rising from the forest floor and of course they are a delightful surprise when you come across them. Thanks for the lovely hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 30, 2009:

Hello Teresa, That is quite the compliment from you! Your hubs are always thoughtful and informative. Thank you.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 30, 2009:

Hi Pete, My aunt and uncle live not far from there and that is why we have spent some time in that area doing some sightseeing. Hope you got to spend time there also when your brother lived there? Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 30, 2009:

Hi shamelabboush, I guess if you have not heard these terms previously, it might be a bit hard to understand. Most people know the term orchids, bromeliads, etc. but might not realize that they fall into the category of epiphytes. Thanks for the comment.

Sheila from The Other Bangor on April 30, 2009:

Again, a real education from your delightful hubs. Gorgeous.

Pete Maida on April 30, 2009:

The piece is very nice and the flowers are beautiful. My brother used to live in Sarasota; its a very nice place.

shamelabboush on April 29, 2009:

Terminology is a lttle bit difficult, but the pictures are amazing.

Related Articles