Calusa Garden Club visits Naples Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Donna Kay, Sue Oldershaw, Barbara Messner, Sara Wolf, Kimberly Korb Porter and Jacquelyn Pierce.

On March 18, six Calusa Garden Club members visited Naples Zoo and Botanical Gardens as part of the Garden Club’s monthly “Gad About” excursions.

At the Zoo, Donna Kay, Sue Oldershaw, Barbara Messner, Sara Wolf, Kimberly Korb Porter and Jacquelyn Pierce observed the nearly 3,000 tropical plants, both native to Florida and non-native to Florida, that are displayed and identified on the grounds of Naples Zoo.

While taking their botanical tour with Sue Oldershaw, Calusa Garden Club member who could tell the group about most of the plants, the Garden Club members also examined the large-scale sculptures of marine life made of discarded materials that had washed up on beaches, mostly in the Pacific northwest.

Garden Club members learned that Dr. Henry Nehrling planted his large collection of over 3,000 tropical plants in 1925 in the area that is now the Naples Zoo. Dr. Nehrling, a botanist and professor, had originally established his collection of tropical plants from around the world in central Florida, but many of the plants froze during a cold winter. Therefore, Nehrling moved south, establishing his tropical garden in the farming area north of the city of Naples. His work was carried on years later by the Fleischmann family when Julius Fleischmann set about restoring the gardens in 1952. Later, in 1967, Larry and Jane Tetzlaff brought their animals from the midwest and carefully designed the settings for the animal exhibits among the exotic plants in the botanical garden, many of which had been established as early as 1925.   A picture of a plant called “Mexican Honeysuckle” illustrates the labeling that the Zoo’s botanical staff has done for its many tropical plants.

Justicia spicigera at the Naples Zoo.

The Garden Club members also saw 11 large-scale sculptures of sea animals on exhibit at Naples Zoo that are made entirely of discarded plastic.  The sculptures are part of a traveling exhibit entitled “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.”  The organization was established by Angela Haseltine Pozzi who made large scale sculptures of marine life from debris she found on the Pacific coastline in the state of Oregon.  Her work encouraged other sculptors, and as a group the sculptors made these 11 sculptures to publicize the harm done to marine life by humans discarding plastic items that do not biodegrade. The Garden Club members are pictured in front of a huge red, white and blue sculpture called American Sea Star.

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and membership is open to those interested in horticulture, floral design and environmental matters residing five months or more in Collier County. 

Calusa Garden Club meets the second Monday of each month, October through March, at Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 350 S. Barfield Drive, Marco Island.  Business meetings begin at 12:30 p.m. and programs begin at 1:15 p.m. Calusa Garden Club welcomes visitors interested in our educational programs and visitors interested in membership.  Contact the Garden Club at, or on the Garden Club’s website,, or visit the Club’s Facebook page Calusa Garden Club.