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Houston Matters

Mercer Botanic Gardens Slowly Rebuilding After Harvey Devastation

Houston’s Mercer Botanic Gardens sustained significant damage from Harvey’s flood waters. Michael Hagerty surveys the damage and learns about plans to restore them.

Fallen Tree
A fallen tree caused by Harvey’s flood waters at Houston’s Mercer Botanic Gardens.

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Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens suffered serious damage by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. The gardens, located in Humble about a mile northwest of Bush Airport, are bordered by Cypress Creek, which overflowed its banks.

Since then, much of the garden has been closed to visitors. Mercer’s visitor center took on five feet of water. The greenhouses were damaged. Many plants were swept away or suffocated under water for days. Trees were uprooted. A major new development on the grounds was washed away. And, once the waters receded, seeds from invasive species were left behind to sprout up in the days and weeks to come.

But Mercer’s director, Darrin Duling, says county workers and members of The Mercer Society — the nonprofit that supports the gardens — are hustling to reopen portions of the facility as soon as it’s reasonably possible so that residents can get back to enjoying this natural oasis in the middle of Houston’s big-city sprawl.

Duling took Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty on a tour of Mercer, along with Maryanne Esser, the president of The Mercer Society, and R.K. Viswanadham, a Mercer board member.

Duling tells Michael about the history of the gardens, how they fared during the storm, and what it'll take to bring them back.

  • Darrin Duling, director of Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens, shows where Cypress Creek flooded out of its banks during Harvey. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Darrin Duling, director of Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens, shows where Cypress Creek flooded out of its banks during Harvey. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • A fallen tree caused by Harvey's flood waters at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
    A fallen tree caused by Harvey's flood waters at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
  • Bricks buckled by a fallen tree at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Bricks buckled by a fallen tree at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • A greenhouse at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens that was damaged during Harvey. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    A greenhouse at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens that was damaged during Harvey. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Silt left on plants at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens by Harvey's flood waters. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
    Silt left on plants at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens by Harvey's flood waters. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
  • The entrance to Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    The entrance to Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • The visitor center at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens was flooded during Harvey. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    The visitor center at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens was flooded during Harvey. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Flood water inside the visitor center at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
    Flood water inside the visitor center at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
  • A statue honoring Thelma Loraine Mercer, located at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    A statue honoring Thelma Loraine Mercer, located at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • A plaque on a statue honoring Thelma Loraine Mercer, located at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    A plaque on a statue honoring Thelma Loraine Mercer, located at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • (L-R) R.K. Viswanadham, Mercer Society board member; Darrin Duling, director of the Mercer Botanic Gardens; and Maryanne Esser, Mercer Society president. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    (L-R) R.K. Viswanadham, Mercer Society board member; Darrin Duling, director of the Mercer Botanic Gardens; and Maryanne Esser, Mercer Society president. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Flowers in bloom at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens before the venue was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
    Flowers in bloom at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens before the venue was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
  • Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens before the venue was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
    Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens before the venue was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
  • A walkway at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens before the venue was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)
    A walkway at Houston's Mercer Botanic Gardens before the venue was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo Credit: Harris County Precinct 4)

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