About Us

In 1932, Arthur G. McKee and Waldo E. Sexton opened McKee Jungle Gardens on an 80-acre tropical hammock in Vero Beach, Florida. The two land developers employed landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, from the esteemed firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the basic infrastructure of streams, ponds and trails while they focused their efforts on assembling one of the most outstanding collections of waterlilies and orchids – augmenting native vegetation with ornamental plants and exotic specimens from around the world. By the 1940’s, more than 100,000 tourists were visiting the Gardens each year, deeming it one of Florida’s earliest and most popular natural attractions.

With a renewed focus on native horticulture, the Garden remains true to its jungle heritage, featuring 10,000 native and tropical plants as well as one of the area’s largest collections of waterlilies. The Hall of Giants and Spanish Kitchen, historic to the Garden, were both meticulously restored to Sexton’s original vision, and in 2002 the United State’s first permitted bamboo structure was built on site.

McKee has garnered national attention in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Coastal Living, House and Garden, Southern Living and The New York Times, and was named one of “22 Secret Gardens – Soothing Places of Surprise and Sanctuary in the U.S. and Canada” by National Geographic Traveler. In 2018, McKee was recognized by Coastal Living as “One of the Ten Most Romantic Places in Florida”. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and endorsed by The Garden Conservancy as a project of national significance.


McKee Botanical Garden strives to be at the forefront of environmental sustainability. All horticultural requirements are strictly enforced by the Director of Horticulture. They include:
• Selection of sub-tropical and tropical foliage based on best fit for the native Florida hammock environment while keeping environmental concerns such as cold tolerance, invasive tendencies and appropriateness for site conditions in mind. McKee discourages annual planting.
• Reuse of all vegetative debris for mulch and other organic needs.
• Recycling of all non-vegetative materials through appropriate methods. The Garden maintains recycling receptacles throughout its public spaces. i.e. Shredding and recycling of office paper, bottles, newspapers and other recyclable materials.
• Employment of low-emissions technology and equipment whenever possible. This includes application of low-power use alternatives.
• The Garden uses rainwater to supplement the shallow well irrigation water. We apply strict irrigation management techniques, automatic rain shut off sensors and continuous monitoring of irrigation system are used to reduce excessive watering of the landscape. The waterway system is part of the irrigation system reservoir and utilizes submergent vegetation as a biological filter that captures nutrients in the water.
• Minimal use of chemicals such as herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides, applied on an as-needed basis only as approved by the Director of Horticulture.

McKee’s role in horticultural stewardship, now and historically, is to ensure that the Garden’s collections support plant biodiversity, that educational programming encourages environmental stewardship beyond our grounds, and that environmental sustainability is at the forefront of our work. We continue to improve our operations by remaining open to new ideas and practices as they are introduced.

Our Team

Officers & Directors

  • President
    Sandra G. Rennick
  • First Vice-President
    Earl Morgan III
  • 2nd Vice-President
    Peter Benedict II
  • Treasurer
    Anita Calabro
  • Secretary
    Stephanie Hurtt
  • Director
    John D’Albora
  • Director
    Logan Geeslin
  • Director
    Jill Grimaldi
  • Director
    Barbara Kaytes
  • Director
    Catherine Kirby
  • Director
    Jeffrey Lockhart
  • Director
    Alma Lee Loy
  • Director
    Gail L. Malin
  • Director
    Barbara Holmen McKenna
  • Director
    Karen K. Meyer
  • Director
    Sayre Schwiering
  • Director
    John J. Schumann, Jr.
  • Director
    Susan Schuyler Smith
  • Director
    Bob Wood


Note: * – Part-time Position

  • Executive Director
    Christine Hobart
  • Business Manager
    Ed Amaral*
  • Development Director
    Triana Romero
  • Education Coordinator
    Amy Shoemaker
  • Administrative Assistant
    Kim Russell
  • Marketing & Events Manager
    Connie Cotherman
  • Volunteer Coordinator
    Ro van Dright*
  • Gift Shop Manager
    Michele Carvell
  • Admissions / Gift Shop
    Vicky Burton*
  • Admissions / Gift Shop
    Penny Eshleman*
  • Admissions / Gift Shop
    Liz Hallanan*
  • Admissions / Gift Shop
    Sally Polk*
  • Director of Horticulture and Research
    Andreas Daehnick
  • Gardeners
    Kevin Gaddy
  • Gardeners
    Rebeca Siplak*
  • Gardeners
    Nicole Stolze
  • Maintenance Manager
    Mark Polis*

Bamboo Pavilion and Bamboo Facts

Join us in our Bamboo Pavilion to learn about the construction of this bamboo structure and some interesting facts about bamboos.

The 529 square foot structure required nearly 350 stems of Guadua angustifolia, knows as lignified bamboo. Each piece was 18 to 24 feet in length and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. It was harvested in locations 3500 ft. above sea level under strict government control.

The roof was made using over 9,000 Sabal palm fronds. These were attached using the traditional methods supervised by Seminole Indian Chief Leroy Osceola.

Bamboo can add a special exotic touch to any garden. Be sure to consider the available space in your garden when choosing a variety of bamboo. There are over 100 species varying in height, texture, color and size of culms (stems) Mckee has about two dozen species planted throughout the Garden. Some of these are admired for their blue, bronze, black or variegated cums. We also have some called Buddha Belly* known for the swollen nodules on its culms.

Bamboo is a type of grass and is considered a renewable non-wood resource. Today it is harvested to make floors, fabric, furniture and framing for structures.

Bamboo exists in either a running or clumping growth Bamboo habit. Running bamboo rhizomes shoot up new shoots some distance from the old shoots and will quickly take over a backyard or move into the neighbor’s yard. Clumping bamboo sends up new shoots next to the old shoots. An easy way to identify a running species is that the stems are flat on one side where the leaf or branch is attached. Mckee does not grow running types of bamboo.

New bamboo shoots look like asparagus as they break through the ground. These shoots grow very quickly (over an inch per hour) in some species. Some species are grown for the edible shoots. The giant bamboo (bambusa oldhamii) is one of these. It is also the species that thrived during the 20 years the Garden was closed.

Bamboo, like other plants, does need maintenance. Old dead or broken culms need to be pruned out. Some gardeners selectively prune the lower leaves to have a better view of the decorative cums.

Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Map

Some species planted in this area
of the Garden are listed below:

A. Bambusa Lako – Bronze Bamboo
B. Bambusa malingesnis
C. Bambusa eutuidoides viridi – vittata
D. Guadua angustifolia – very thorny
E. Dendrocalamus asper – Giant Bamboo
F. Bambusa chungii – Tropical Blue Bamboo
G. Bambusa textiles gracilis – Slender Weaver`s Bamboo
H. Bambusa vulgaris ‘Wamin” – Dwarf Buddha Belly
I. Dendrocalamus brandisii

Bambusa Oldhamii, one of our largest and oldest species,
is located on the Main Jungle Trail.

Holiday List