Most zoos have some sort of native botanical landscape that for flora fans can sometimes rival the fauna, the L.A. Zoo is no exception. While the landscape is covered with strange succulents and clumps of Mexican sage, there is something much more exotic planted here, with a much more interesting history.
Away from the expected California wildflowers and blowing grasses, there is a secret garden of rescued plants, the ancient cycads. Kidnapped by poachers from their native homes and smuggled in by nefarious plant dealers, this rare, palm-like specimen dates back to the Permian Period. 280 million years in existence, cycads can live for a thousand years, and fetch a pretty penny on the black market. A two-year investigation led to an international sting that reclaimed nearly 1,000 cycads, 94 of which were acquired and are now cared for by the L.A. Zoo horticulturist.