Located in Santa Barbara, California, Lotusland preserves and expands the historic estate of Madame Ganna Walska, who amassed an impressive collection of rare flowers and created exquisite gardens. While the Lotusland gardens comprise numerous plant collections, the cycad collection remains among the most celebrated. This collection, which is regarded as the most complete of any public garden in the United States, boasts more than 900 different cycad specimens. More than half of the known cycad species, including nine of the 11 genera, are represented.
Cycads, or plants that bear cones, have a long history. Once very common during the age of dinosaurs, cycads are now in danger of extinction, and many species no longer exist. Madame Walska’s cycad garden, the last one she created, features three Encephalartos woodii, a species that is extinct in the wild and extremely rare in gardens. These three prized plants have their own location on a rocky cliff overlooking a koi pond. The cycad garden encompasses a previously neglected part of the land that served as a grain field for the property’s former owner.