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Plants: Gardens: Madagascar Garden

Madagascar is the fourth largest island on Earth and is twice the size of Arizona. Its diverse vegetation ranges from tropical rain forests to dry deciduous forests and spiny deserts. Only about 10 percent of its original vegetation remains.


Extraordinary and fragile, about 90 percent of Madagascar's native plants are found nowhere else! For example, six out of the eight species of baobabs Adansonia existing worldwide are found only in Madagascar.


Many of the island's plants are so unique that they do not even have related families living in other parts of the world. About 90 percent of Madagascar's 13,000 to 16,000 plant species are found only on this amazing island. Although many of our Madagascar Garden plants may resemble those succulents found in our North American deserts, most are unrelated. For example, the Alluaudia procera of Madagascar resembles the ocotillo Fonquieria splendens from our own Sonoran Desert. As such, this "look-alike" is referred to as the African ocotillo. Both have thick stems and small leaves and spines, adaptations often repeated in desert plants throughout the world.


The San Diego Zoo's botanical collection includes 27 families, 42 genera, 105 species, and 415 specimens native to Madagascar. Two of our 27 Madagascan families, including 6 of their genera, are listed as threatened with extinction in the wild. Arecaceae (Palm Family) is represented here by 17 taxa with conservation status.