The Gardens of Alcatraz

For over 100 years, officers, their families, and even prisoners living or serving time on Alcatraz Island created gardens for both food and pleasure. The extreme conditions on the island meant that Alcatraz gardeners needed tough plants that could survive with little water or care. In the 1930s, the warden’s secretary, Fred Reichel, asked the California Horticultural Society and pioneering western plant breeders for seedlings that might do well on the island. Many of the species that he imported came from the world’s other Mediterranean climates, and flourished through 40 years of neglect after the prison closed.

After the prison closed in 1963 the gardens were forgotten by left to fend for themselves until 2003 when the Garden Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy formed a partnership with the National Park Service to restore and maintain the gardens on Alcatraz.

Today, visitors to Alcatraz experience an island that is alive with colorful plants gathered decades ago from around the world, and complemented by newly introduced plants.  The landscape is alive with fragrant old roses, fig trees, bulbs, and colorful succulents—historic examples of sustainable planting. Where historic plantings were lost, visitors now see new plants with low maintenance and water needs more appropriate to today’s conditions. These substitute plants, brought into the gardens starting in 2005, are similar in type, form, scale, and color to the plants in historic photographs.


Read more at The Gardens of Alcatraz Website

What is in bloom now on the island

Learn how to visit the island

List of surviving plants

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