Lotus Pond & Japanese Garden

The Lotus Pond and surrounding Japanese Garden is an area brought back from the ravages of Acid Mine Drainage to create a Japanese-style garden in western Pennsylvania. Japan and western Pennsylvania share the temperate climate, enabling the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden to a develop a palate of east Asian cultivars mixed with indigenous plants. A pathway gently winds around the pond, affording gorgeous views from many angles.

Reclamation Story

In the 1920’s this area was used by coal mining companies to hold the water drained from the mines. That water contains toxic aluminum and has a pH like vinegar. There was no life in the pond and the acres around it were filled with dying trees smothered by invasive vines.

Notably, an award winning passive treatment system transformed the pond into a hospitable environment for plants and animals. The water entering the pond first passes through a solar operated, underground tank of limestone which is located under a wooden yatsuhashi (zigzag) boardwalk. The system precipitates the aluminum into a harmless compound that is flushed from the tank every week. The simplicity and ingenuity of the reclamation system is being adopted in another part of the Garden, eliminating the toxic acid mine drainage that fills local streams that eventually feed the Ohio River.

Gardens Surrounding the Pond

Surrounding banks are planted with trees with an Asian provenance. The cherry blossoms are thriving and will show off their blossoms in future springs. Other trees include Sorbus alnifolia (Korean mountain ash), Larix (larch), Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood), Styrax japonicus (Japanese snowbell), Davidia involucrata (dove or handkerchief tree) and Sciadopitys verticillata (Japanese umbrella pine). An Asian Oak collection has been started. As donations permit, more features will be added to evoke the feeling of a Japanese-style garden, including Asian grasses, juniper, and, a moon bridge.