Disney’s Magical Trees! — an Epcot tour for International Society of Arboriculture Guests


Sorry, I haven’t posted in so long! The last few weeks of my internship were extra busy because I decided to take on two projects. I produced a informative video for the internship, which probably took me something like 100 hours make. My other project was testing a new control method for pest management.

Even though my internship is over now *stifled cry of sadness*, I have loads of pictures and interesting notes I want to organize and share. My last week as an intern was packed with excitement. I did 5 parks in 5 days: Universal/ Island’s of Adventure, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.

The day after I visited Universal, I went on an amazing tour of Epcot, with some members of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). That day I realized there is no comparison to the realistic and detailed environments of Walt Disney World, and Disney’s horticulture department is what sets them apart. The landscapes are so beautiful and enveloping, sometimes you forget you’re in a theme park. They create seamless transitions from land to land. They screen views and noises, making spaces seem much bigger and secluded. There would be no magic in the Disney parks, without the horticultural department… (Universal Studios could really step up their game, if they followed in the footsteps of Disney’s horticulture.)


Now let’s continue with Epcot ISA tour… The first thing that you need to know about the Epcot World Showcase landscape is the camphor trees. Cinnamomum camphora is used throughout the world showcase to tie the countries together.Β These evergreen trees grow 50 to 98 feet tall, and their height is about equal to the canopy width. The world’s largest, located in Japan, is said to be 26 feet in diameter.

Cinnamomum camphora has smooth grayish bark. Morocco is in the background!

When crushed, the leaves give off a cinnamon like aroma. The leaves and bark are steam distilled for the essential oils. Camphor crystals have many culinary, medicinal, and insecticidal uses. As a native to the wet forests of subtropical and tropical Asia; the tree grows so well in Florida’s climate that it’s invasive in the state’s hardwood forests. They propagate by seed and by suckers from the roots. The dead wood is very brittle, and must be pruned regularly to prevent safety issues.

Cinnamomum camphora has alternate, simple leaves. -- (keys.lucidcentral.org)
Cinnamomum camphora‘s alternate, simple leaves smell like cinnamon. — (keys.lucidcentral.org)
I automatically thought of the giant camphor from Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro.



The branches are cut back to the pollards!
The branches are cut back to the pollards!

The American sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis, is native to 48 US states. It’s used a lot in the European countries and Canada in the world showcase. All of these trees are defoliated BY HAND, because they don’t lose their leaves early enough in the fall. Leaves and young stems have small hairs, or trichomes, which irritate the lungs and eyes when handled a lot.

After they’re defoliated they look similar to everyone’s favorite magical tree, aka the whomping willow from Hogwarts! This is because these trees are pollarded: a form of pruning where the branches are cut back to the “pollards”. This pruning technique has been used since medieval times, to harvest wood for kindling, basket weaving, and other products. Today, pollarding is used to maintain trees at certain heights in urban areas.

Just in case you forgot what a sycamore leaf looks like.
Harry Potter is everywhere!


DSC00835The weeping mulberry, or Morus alba ‘Pendula’, in front of China’s garden is over 100 years old. It’s especially beautiful after it loses its leaves in the fall. This dwarf cultivar grows 6-10 feet tall. It’s leaves have been a diet for silkworms in China since 2600 B.C. When pruning all non-weeping branches are removed.

It has papery, irregularly shaped, lobed leaves.


DSC00842Buddha’s Belly/ Lumpy noodle Bamboo, or Bambusa vulgaris ‘Wamin,’ is one of my favorites! Its swollen internodes give it its common name. Bamboo is great for screening in landscapes. All bamboos in genus Bambusa are clumping, while all in Phyllostachys are running.

DSC00842 - Copy
The more water the plant is given, the longer the internodes will be. That’s why these stems all look a little different.
Bambusa‘s dense root structure only expands a few inches a year.
Phyllostachys’ underground rhizomes spread fast! Most running bamboo is also very cold-hardy.


These are just a few of the most significant specimens. I’ll be posting more soon!

If you enjoyed, please like and subscribe. πŸ™‚

Thanks to Debbie Mola-Mickler, Janet Wyatt, D. Scott Shultz, Phillip Marchand, Allison Brooks and to You!


4 thoughts on “Disney’s Magical Trees! — an Epcot tour for International Society of Arboriculture Guests

  1. Nice info you have here. I live in Fl and only been once to Epcot and that was 15 years ago is interesting how disney has used the camphor trees. Question why is that Universal needs to step up their landscape? By the way you are very brave in visiting 5 parks in 5 days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Rhina! πŸ™‚ They put a lot of thought behind every little detail at Disney… I love Universal Studios too, but their horticultural landscapes never blew my mind. I think they could do a lot better. Maybe one day I’ll go back and make some notes for them, haha… Stupid is more like it! I highly discourage anyone to do 5 parks in 5 days, unless park tickets are free. Free is always better.


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