Annual Orchid Show at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
When Marie Selby died in June 1971, she willed her property to the community as a botanical garden “for the enjoyment of the general public”. After consulting with the New York Botanical Garden and the University of Florida, the new board of directors decided to specialize in epiphyte plants to distinguish Selby Gardens as a unique botanical garden among the country’s plethora of botanical gardens. Epiphytes are commonly known as air plants growing on the surface of other plants. Epiphytes are not parasites. They obtain nutrients and moisture from the air and only use the plants they grow on as physical support.
Epiphytes include ferns, bromeliads, Spanish moss, and orchids. About 70% of all orchids are epiphytes growing on other plants deriving moisture and nutrients from the air and rain while about 30% of orchids are terrestrial orchids. It is estimated that there are more than 27,000 species of orchids in over 800 genera. Subsequently, orchids are considered to be the most diverse plant family. And another astonishing fact is that recent DNA analyses have shown that orchids are more than 90,000,000 years old making them one of the most ancient flowering plants. Most of us know that orchids are native to the tropics but they thrive all over the world living on all the continents except for Antarctica.
Selby Botanical Gardens is the only botanical garden in the world that focuses on research and conservation of epiphytes including orchids. This wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience is showcased each year in The Orchid Show. The Orchid Show is held annually in October through November…starting around October 10 and going over the Thanksgiving holiday. Each fall, the show is devoted to a different theme. This year, 2020, marks the 45th anniversary of the official opening of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. To celebrate this momentous occasion, this year’s show honors the founder, Marie Selby. This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Suffrage Movement that allowed American women the right to vote. Consequently this year’s orchid show entitled “Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling”, will celebrate both historic and noteworthy events. This year’s Orchid Show will present the symbolic colors of the Suffragettes: purple, white, green, and gold. Also several displays are gaily twirling to express the joyfulness of these hallmark occasions. For a video highlighting this year’s design and the kinetic displays, visit my Youtube channel by clicking here.
The Orchid Show is housed in the Tropical Conservatory, which is considered an indoor venue thus all visitors as well as volunteers are required to wear face masks during this age of COVID. The capacity of the large greenhouse is limited so you may have to wait in line to enter the Conservatory. There are a couple of volunteers in the Conservatory to share tidbits of information about the show and specific displays and to answer questions. I recommend engaging with them because they are enthusiastic about the show and are a fountain of interesting details. I always learn something new talking with a volunteer at the show. A visitor can walk through the Conservatory in 5 minutes or one can slowly browse and spend upwards of 20-30 minutes viewing the show. I leisurely peruse the show gazing and absorbing the entire surroundings in about 15-20 minutes. The Conservatory is decorated from floor to ceiling so be sure to not only look down but up. I like to walk the show twice to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time and to view my favorite orchids again. I am a Member of Selby Gardens which grants be free admission to the Orchid Show whenever I want. I usually attend the Orchid Show three times: the first day or two of opening, in the middle, and during the last week of the show. The orchids are incredibly varied in shapes, colors, and size and the flowers are strange, unique, fascinating, and immeasurably beautiful.
I moved to Sarasota in August 2018 and I have attended this year’s show and the previous two shows. Each show was dazzling and immensely beautiful. Last year’s (2019) Orchid Show was titled “Blossoms of Asia” featuring orchids from Asia.
In 2018, the Orchid Show was “Endless Forms” highlighting the range of shapes and sizes of different orchids and displayed some of most rare and unusual specimens from the collection. This show included treasures from the preserved collection and were on display in the Museum of Botany and the Arts.
In Sarasota and southwest Florida, the tropical climate affords lovely landscapes with flowering plants and trees year round. Consequently Selby Gardens is amazingly beautiful throughout the year. Even though you can view the best scientifically documented orchid collection in the world in the Tropical Conservatory year round, I recommend visiting in mid-October through the end of November so that you may attend the annual Orchid Show and enjoy the most magnificent Orchid Show.
For more information about Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, click here.
-food and drink
-restrooms (3 locations)
-free wifi in spots
-free parking (accessible from Palm Ave and Orange Ave)
-bicycle racks near Welcome Center
-complimentary wheelchairs are available in the Welcome Center
Location: 1532 Mound Street, Sarasota FL 34236
The entrance & Welcome Center are located on Palm Ave. (at 900 S. Palm Avenue).
Open daily 10:00 am – 5:00pm
(closed on Christmas Day)
Member Guests: $10
Youth 4-17: $15
Children 3 and under: Free
Can purchase tickets online