Since the ride opened in 1955, the land around the ride’s river has transformed into its own ecosystem.
Disney workers have switched the plant makeup from mostly leftover orange trees from the the land’s previous owner to those more like a real jungle. And with the new plants, the land itself has turned into its own interactive environment.
“Now it has a large tree canopy made up of coral trees, ficus trees, some of the large palm trees and bamboo overhead,” said Karen Hedges, director of the Disneyland Resort‘s Horticulture and Landscaping.
Hedges said the canopy is as high as 100 feet in some areas and the foliage is growing more like the plants do in real jungles.
“The plants actually keep the heat in from the day time and carries it through to night time,” Hedges said.
When the temperatures in Anaheim dip to freezing, that saves the plants from dying.
“It will stay a couple degrees warmer in here,” she said.
While the landscaping crews work in the jungle every day, they try to leave it alone except for pruning the higher trees, and making sure the plants do not interfere with the animatronic animals that guests see.
They even leave most of the fallen leaves on the ground to let the nutrients naturally return to the soil, just like in the jungles of the Amazon or Africa.
“The humidity has even attracted aerial roots from the ficus trees,” Hedges said.
And that humidity has also allowed flowering, native-jungle plants to blossom in a soil-less environment right above the visitors riding in the Jungle Cruise boats and listening to those famous wise-cracking skippers.
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