Meet the Curator of Horticulture: Sheryl Heydt of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Sheryl Heydt trimming the bamboo “hair” from a snowman after the twin blizzards of 2009. (Note bamboo destruction in the background!). Copyright Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Describe your job: As the Curator of Horticulture, my job is to care for our large collection of plants and trees on a 135 acre property. My duties include working with contractors and staff to make the zoo campus look beautiful year round. My job includes working with volunteers and groups to accomplish large projects such as clearing invasive plants from exhibits and planting beds.

How long have you been in the position?  I have been in this position for 5 ½ years.

What in your background helped you get the job? I have over twenty years of field experience, two associates degrees, and a bachelor’s degree. I am certified in four categories through the Maryland Department of Agriculture. 

What’s your favorite thing about your job? One of my favorite things is that I am challenged to produce visible results with the available resources while maintaining a mutually respectful relationship with all zoo operations.

Describe a favorite memory/experience in your current position: One of my favorite memories would be when the Naval Academy cadets came to help Horticulture with a project in our Wilderness area. Over 60 energetic young men/women came out on a crisp January day and helped remove a ton of invasive bamboo. When the project was complete we wanted to get a photo of the group – the Cadets arranged themselves like a stacked pyramid on a picnic table. I snapped a great photo shot and suddenly the picnic table collapsed under the weight of all that muscle!

Do you have a favorite animal/plant? Why is it your favorite? My favorite animal would be the elephant. Elephants are extremely intelligent, but gentle giants.  My favorite plant is the oak tree. Oak trees are a popular shade tree living an average of 200 years. The mighty oak attracts wildlife and tolerates so many soils.

Maryland Zoo horticulture team dedicated the Ostrich Garden to the Zoo's Volunteers. Copyright Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

 Tim Lewthwaite

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