Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Landscape Fact Sheet

At Smithsonian’s National Zoo, visitors will see a variety of new plants on American Trail that represent several of North America’s ecosystems, including: coastal upland; wet forest, eastern woodland forest; and shore. The National Zoo’s Horticulture and Park Management Department worked with designers to choose plants that best represented these ecosystems. In addition, the Zoo’s Department of Nutrition approved all of the new plantings to ensure that they were safe should the animals ingest them.

Horticulture and Park Management took special care to preserve the natural wooded area that surrounds American Trail and the flora within animal exhibits. A number of older trees were removed to accommodate exhibit structures. Each tree that was removed was replaced with a new, younger tree. Casey Trees—a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit—donated and planted 30 trees, including white oak, redbud, dogwood, fringe trees, and swamp white oak. In addition, the renovated streambed is flanked by more than 2,000 native ferns.

New flora in the gray seal and California sea lion exhibits:

  • Evergreen, birch and maple trees tower above the seal and sea lion exhibits
  • To add to the feel of a windswept coast, tidal grasses, wetland shrubs, forbs and juniper surround the rockwork
  • Plantings along the pathway include ferns, sedges, blueberries and twig dogwood. They represent the flora found in the understory of wet forests
  • Large boulders were transported from a quarry in Pennsylvania and placed throughout the seal and sea lion exhibit. (The largest boulder weighs 29,000 pounds)

New flora in the gray wolf exhibit:

  • The gray wolf exhibit occupies the same land space as it did previously, but several changes were made to increase the viewing area. The front of the gray wolf exhibit replicates a grassy meadow and provides visitors with an unobstructed view. Holding pens run along the side of the exhibit
  • Faux rockwork was removed and replaced with boulders that were salvaged from an exhibit that is not currently in use. This creates the look of a natural den while preventing erosion
  • New plantings include trees, shrubs, grasses and ferns. Original exhibit materials were also incorporated
  • A large sycamore tree was salvaged and used to construct the entrance to one of the dens. Logs and branches, referred to as deadfall, are strategically placed throughout the exhibit to encourage the wolves to maneuver through and over them as they would in the wild
  • The rear of the exhibit is planted to simulate a forested area. This gives the wolves the opportunity to retreat and separate when necessary

New flora in the North American beaver exhibit:

  • The artificial lodge in the North American beaver exhibit is supplemented with the logs and branches that the beavers cut and arranged themselves

New flora in the North American river otter exhibit:

  • Birch, willow and sedges

New flora in the raven exhibit:

  • Hemlock for the four ravens to roost in

Download this page as pdf

American Trail Press Kit

Background Animal Bios Facilities Landscapes