Last Friday, I was able to cross off my list of places in SF Bay Area that I've yet to visit -the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens (200 Centennial Dr., Berkeley,CA). And to be sure, the Botanical Garden is definitely a place worth visiting. If I lived closer to it, I would be a frequent visitor. The Botanical Garden is cultivated with 13,000+ different kinds of plants from around the world set in naturalistic landscapes over 34 acres.
My 2-hour visit was hardly enough time to fully explore the place. In fact, on this first visit, I was captivated by the variety of life found at the Japanese Pool. The brochure for the Garden states that this pool is an important breeding ground for newts (both California and Rough-skinned -but don't ask me to tell you which is which). It wasn't hard to spot several newts in the fairly clear water as they fed on algae and other aquatic material. It's my understanding that conspicuous breeding occurs mostly between January and February. While I didn't see any breeding, there was plenty of evidence of it. Dispersed throughout the pool, there are many spherical cloudy masses about the size of a large marble or maybe a ping-pong ball that contain 1-2 dozen eggs. And if you look closely, some of these eggs already have very small larvae visible in them.
During my short time at the Japanese Pool, I also saw a Common Garter snake successfully capture one of the many Pacific Chorus frogs that also live there. You don't see that everyday.
It cost $7 to visit the Botanical Garden (and a few more bucks for parking) but I'd say it's money well spent. And of course, the Botanical Garden is also a great place to bring your camera. Click here to see photos taken at the Japanese Pool.