One of the things that makes Disney parks so special is their use of plants. From a business perspective growing and maintaining hundreds of plant species just for the sake of ambience is a costly, and non-revenue generating, endeavor. But it speaks to Disney’s attention to detail and love of providing an experience like no other. Creating rich and realistic environments has been a signature of Disney since the opening of its first theme park in 1955.
The true magic of Disney is that rarely, if ever, do guests see the horticulture staff at work. Much of the work is done at night and in the wee hours of the morning while the parks are closed and hotel guests are fast asleep.
A great deal of care and research goes into the selection and placement of plantlife to ensure continuity with the various themes of the Disney parks and hotels.
One of my favorite things at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando is the Liberty Tree. The ancient live Oak (quercus virginiana) was found growing naturally on the land that would eventually become part of the Walt Disney World Resort. It was painstakingly transplanted to its current location prior to the Magic Kingdom opening in 1971.
The Disney parks have become a sanctuary for a variety of fish, birds and other animals that find safety in the confines of the parks where hunting and fishing is prohibited. One of the great pleasures of visiting a Disney theme park is seeing the many wild animals that have moved in and set up housekeeping.
Of course, of all the parks, The Animal Kindgom is where plants and landscaping take center stage. It was important to create an environment that felt as though it had evolved in the wild rather than being sculpted and landscaped by designers.
The park has hundreds of species of plants and flowers to explore and has become a home to many native insect and bird species found in central Florida.
Plants are more than decoration, they create ambiance and the illusion of reality. The Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a landmark attraction. But it is the wild and overgrown landscape that truly sets the mood for the story that unfolds within and helps to foreshadow the attraction’s story.
Throughout the year the type of plants featured throughout the Disney Parks change to suit the seasons. Fall and Christmastime are my two favorite seasons for visiting a Disney theme park.