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Plants: Gardens: Mediterranean Garden

Did you know that Mediterranean-type ecosystems occur on just three percent of all land on Earth? In a Mediterranean ecosystem, winters are typically short and wet and summers are long and dry, often accompanied by frequent fires. Yes, San Diego has a Mediterranean climate!


Worldwide, there are five Mediterranean climate regions: the coastline of California and Baja California, Mexico; the coast of central Chile; the tip of South Africa; Southwest and South Australia; the coastlines of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, known as the Mediterranean Basin. The predominant plants of the Mediterranean Basin include juniper, myrtle, olive, pistachio, and oak. Other historically important plants include the strawberry tree, the carob bean tree, and the Mediterranean fan palm. Rockrose is often prevalent after frequent fires, due to its rapid regeneration. Aromatic, drought-tolerant plants of this region also include rosemary, sage, and thyme.


Today, less than five percent of the vegetation in this biodiversity hotspot remains intact and protected. This is hardly surprising. Multiple threats from urbanization, including invasive species, are drastically changing this ecosystem, making it one of the most highly altered and least represented of any biome. The San Diego Zoo's Mediterranean Garden, located in Cat Canyon, is helping preserve some of the plant material that came from the Middle East due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of the trees in that part of the world could become endangered due to use as firewood and building and from the destruction caused by the war.


You will find many of the plants commonly associated with mild Mediterranean climates in the Zoo's Mediterranean Garden, our "landscape lifeboat."