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. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and endorsed by The Garden Conservancy as a project of national significance.

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*

  • Administrative Assistant

    Kim Russell

  • Marketing & Events Manager

    Connie Cotherman

  • Volunteer Coordinator

    Ro van Dright*

  • Gift Shop Manager

    Gale Galbraith

  • 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

    Luanne Cartier*

  • Gardeners

    Kevin Gaddy

  • Gardeners

    Jose Ramierez

  • 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 exhitis 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.

350 US Highway 1. Vero Beach, FL 32962
Telephone (772) 794-0601
McKee Botanical Garden