AAA Editor Notes
The Gardens of Alcatraz are on Alcatraz Island. Created by the families of correctional officers and the inmates themselves, they made maximum use of limited space and added touches of beauty to the otherwise forbidding atmosphere of “The Rock.”
The natural environment—rocky ground, poor soil, a scarcity of fresh water and chilly, salt-laden winds—was not conducive to horticulture, but Alcatraz's early gardeners chose hardy, sustainable plants from places like South Africa and the Mediterranean, where weather conditions are similar to those in the San Francisco Bay Area. When the prison closed in 1963 the cultivated landscape became overgrown and wild, but since 2003 a crew of volunteers has worked to restore and maintain these historic gardens.
Fuchsias, geraniums and nasturtiums flourish in carefully tended flower beds. Creamy white calla lilies accent stone walls. Fig trees, fragrant roses and aeoniums, succulents with fleshy leaves in the shape of a rosette, provide a colorful contrast to the crumbling buildings. Unusual plants include Gordonia axillaris, more commonly known as the fried egg plant due to the appearance of its blooms.