Water Conservation

Drought-tolerant garden to open at the Oklahoma City Zoo

Garden at OKC Zoo Justin Quetone Moss and Leighona Bernstein ThinkWater

Imagine a drought-tolerant garden—cacti, rocks and a predominant brown hue come to mind. On June 1, 2015, ThinkWater at Oklahoma State University in partnership with the Oklahoma City Zoo, will unveil a drought-tolerant garden designed to be just the opposite of brown and rocky.

The brightly colored, water-saving section will serve as the centerpiece to conservation efforts in the Botanical Garden portion of the zoo.

“I want this to be our cornerstone for irrigation on the Botanical Gardens side,” said Lance Swearengin, zoo horticultural supervisor. “The animal department has a lot of conservation efforts that they do, the botanical garden has very little. I would like this to be the cornerstone for our conservation efforts.”

Swearengin said another goal for the garden, besides conservation, is to show people how attractive the drought-tolerant plant selections in Oklahoma can be.

The garden, located by Indian Rhinoceros exhibit, displays a diverse group of plant species like yucca, Russian and Autumn Sage, agave, and Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod. Many of these species bloom in vibrant hues of reds and yellows and serve as a colorful addition to the foliage.

These varieties are hardier and use less water than many other plant species.

“When people think ‘drought-tolerant’, they think of a desert landscape—cactus and rock,” Swearengin said. “We want them to look at the garden here and realize that drought-tolerant can mean green too.”

The June 1 opening will feature a talk from zoo director Dwight Lawson and a ceremonial planting.

“I am very excited about this opening and the garden itself,” said Justin Moss, principle investigator for the Oklahoma City water conservation effort and associate professor at OSU. “It is a great culmination of our work with the Botanic Gardens and our efforts in conservation.”

For more information on the garden and the opening, please refer to thinkwater.okstate.edu.