Mission & History
We save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants; fundamental to this task is inspiring a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world. .
Fairchild gets its name from one of the most famous plant explorers in history, David Fairchild (1869-1954). Dr. Fairchild was known for traveling the world in search of useful plants, but he was also an educator and a renowned scientist. At the age of 22, he created the Section of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the United States Department of Agriculture, and for the next 37 years, he traveled the world in search of plants of potential use to the American people. Fairchild visited every continent in the world (except Antarctica) and brought back hundreds of important plants, including mangos, alfalfa, nectarines, dates, cotton, soybeans, bamboos and the flowering cherry trees that grace Washington D.C.
Dr. Fairchild retired to Miami in 1935 and joined a group of passionate plant collectors and horticulturists, including retired accountant Col. Robert H. Montgomery (1872-1953), environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, County Commissioner Charles Crandon and landscape architect William Lyman Phillips. This core group worked tirelessly to bring the idea of a one of a kind botanic garden to life, and in 1938, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden opened its 83 acres to the public for the first time.. Col. Montgomery, who founded the Garden, named it to honor his friend. Many plants still growing in the Garden were collected by Dr. Fairchild, including a giant African baobab tree by the Gate House. In 1940, Dr. Fairchild embarked on the Garden’s first official collecting expedition, sailing from the Philippines to the Indonesian archipelago on a special oceangoing Chinese junk called the Cheng Ho. The voyage provided many of the Garden’s early botanical specimens before the outbreak of World War II forced the explorers to return home.
Robert H. Montgomery was an accountant, attorney and successful businessman with a passion for plant collecting. With the guidance of Dr. Fairchild, he pursued the dream of creating a botanical garden in Miami, the one place in the continental United States, where tropical plants could grow outdoors year-round. Opened to the public in 1938, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden was established on an 83-acre site south of Miami purchased by Col. Montgomery and later deeded in large part to Miami-Dade County. Renowned landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, a member of the Frederik Law Olmsted partnership and a leading landscape designer during the 1930s, designed the Garden.
Our Natural History Collection, Library and Archives contain our expansive history. We have ongoing projects to digitize and preserve our collections.
The Garden Grows