Comical Koi at the Zilker Botanic Garden

We devoted one afternoon in Austin to exploring the Zilker Botanic Garden. There were very few blooms, but even in December it’s worth seeing. I especially like the way it is designed around the topography of a hillside overlooking downtown Austin.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus

We enjoyed the Prehistoric Garden, which showcased ancient plants and a few dinosaurs.

Zilker Botanic Garden

Zilker Prehistoric Garden

Zilker Botanic Garden
Branches of Montezuma Cypress overhanging path.

There were several specimens of the deciduous conifer, Montezuma Cypress. At this time of year the normally green needles were a sort of tan orange color, but still attached. I thought it was quite attractive.

Zilker Botanic Garden

Flowing water and waterfalls could be found throughout the garden.


We moved on to the Japanese Garden, which had a large koi pond, full of large koi.


Some people find koi to be beautiful, I know. But for some reason I just think they’re funny. The big ones seem to have this galumphing, ponderous aspect. Maybe the colder water was making them more sluggish.


Anyhow, my kids have the same reaction to koi that I do. So we were standing around the koi pond, making fun of the fish and mistifying other visitors, for a good length of time. It was especially amusing when one of the big koi would come up to the surface and open its round, toothless mouth to swallow something. It just seemed to be saying: “Hello, I am an orange catfish.”

Zilker Japanese Garden

I guess you had to be there. Anyhow, it was a very well done Japanese Garden.

Zilker Japanese Garden

The hidden waterfall grotto was especially nice.

Zilker Green Garden

Another worthwhile thing at Zilker is the Green Garden, which showcases ways for people to utilize Texas natives and make their home gardens more environmentally responsible.

Yaupon Holly
Yaupon Holly

So how do you feel about koi? Do you think they are beautiful, or funny, or just a very expensive way to feed the raccoons?

36 Comments on “Comical Koi at the Zilker Botanic Garden

  1. I prefer watching birds to watching fish, but I just studied the Koi for a few minutes at Duke Gardens recently and am amazed at the variation in color and pattern. So I like them in an abstract way, I guess. Happy 2014!

  2. I can’t say I’m inspired by fish of any type, but koi do sometimes have nice markings… Happy New Year!

  3. I’ve been enamored by koi since childhood but those pleasant memories were compromised after visiting the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis while I lived there for four years. They have an amazing Japanese Garden centered around a grand pond that ends with a glorious bridge and koi are fed by grain pellets from a small vending machine. Problem is they’re greedy and fight each other for the food which is the antithesis of the calming Zen garden. The fish have bred over the years and some have reverted back to an ugly brown. And they’re so overfed, they’re huge. Your pictures remind me how beautiful they can be, Jason

    • The Missouri Botanic Garden is on my bucket list. Funny I haven’t gotten there since it’s not so far and I am in downstate Illinois a lot. Happy 2014, Patrick!

  4. I particularly like the idea of showcasing ways for people to utilize Texas natives. They should do that in all areas.

    • I agree. And they had this part of the garden situated so that it was the first thing people walked through. Happy 2014, Alain!

  5. One of the people I gardened for had a small pond on her property and she once had me release several Koi she had ordered. Over the summer they slowly disappeared, one by one. I was thinking great blue heron, but it might have been a raccoon. She gave up on the fish and moved on to water lillies. I spent so much time in that pond that I thought my feet would be permanently shriveled.
    Happy New Year!

    • It’s not that I dislike koi. It’s just that they have a quality that undercuts their reputation for tranquil elegance. Plus, as you say, I could never see putting in the time and resources to maintain them in a pond.

  6. I feel at odds with captive fish in ponds and instead of feeling calm they make me uncomfortable and much prefer the soulful connection of a wildlife pond. Happy New Year!

  7. Koi are beautifully colourful but have the sort of faces a Mother would find it hard to love. They are terribly expensive so plenty of people do love them. Unfortunately so does the heron.

    • I guess they are more attractive from above than head on. But I don’t think the heron (or raccoons) care either way.

  8. I find koi beautiful but they seem so fat and lazy to me. They almost always conjure up images of gluttonous ancient Greeks opening their maw for just one more bite. I love the hidden waterfall and little log bridge. Very cool!

  9. Love the tour and so impressed that your family goes with you! I would have to do these by myself. Thankfully, I like my own company. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  10. I do love to see koi….but I was fascinated with the prehistoric plants, how wonderful they are. I am in awe of the catcus too, they are such an ancient primitive plant. You are seeing some interesting

    • We arrived home to 10 degree weather and the snow has been coming down hard since yesterday. At least we are cozy inside, though.

  11. Glad to hear I’m not the only one baffled by koi. Sometimes it’s neat to see them come up from the deep, those flashy colours definitely catch the eye. But as a fish they’re a bit ridiculous. the garden looks like a lovely place to spend some outdoor time with the family. It’s clearly well landscaped so blooms aren’t even a necessity.

  12. Many of the Zilker Garden koi were stolen a few years ago, and I don’t think the thieves were ever apprehended. It seems a few people snuck in at night and packed them up in something — quite a feat considering the size of the koi that were stolen. It was sad too because those koi were decades old, and garden employees feared that they wouldn’t be taken care of properly, not to mention the financial and aesthetic loss to the garden. It seems that the garden has replenished its koi supply since then.

  13. I enjoy koi. Mine are very active in the summer and only do the sluggish bit in the winter when the water is cold. They add a nice flash of color to my pond which I can see from my kitchen window. I don’t spend lots of time watching them but they do have different personalities once you get to know them. Once they’re used to you, they swim over to see you when you walk by the pond. I keep the raccoons/herons away with an electric fence and deep pond.

    • I understand about the flash of color. Maybe I should go looking for koi in the heat of summer. Glad you are able to keep yours safe from the predators.

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