In 1956, a mining company sold some unproductive facilities to the County of Los Angeles, thinking it had taken everything worth taking from the land. The county wanted to reclaim the site as a natural habitat, but civic demands at the time dictated that it become a sanitary landfill. Then, in 1961, a group of private citizens headed by Frances Young convinced the Board of Supervisors to reclaim the site as a botanic garden. By April of that year, the one-time mine and former landfill bloomed with more than 40,000 donated trees, shrubs, and other plants, officially completing its rebirth as the South Coast Botanic Garden.
Today, the garden's 87 acres of land support more than 200,000 plants representing more than 2,500 different species, including 100 extremely rare mature plant specimens and globe-spanning plants from Australia and Africa. The robust growth sprawls across several theme gardens, including a dry-soil cactus garden, a traditional Japanese garden sculpted around centuries-old stone lanterns, and a Mediterranean garden inspired by the sultanates of antiquity. The diverse plant life provides shelter for an equally diverse population of birds and bugs, with 200 avian species spotted each year, matching the 200 yearly squeals from grown men who encounter a particularly large beetle.