Garden News Blog

Where Did the Turtles Go?

Visitors walking past the icy pond in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden might notice that the painted turtles and red-eared sliders are not basking on the rocks as they do in summer. Where do they hunker down for winter? Turtles actually hibernate deep in the mud at the very bottom of the pond, insulated by layers of ice, water, and muck. When cold-blooded animals like turtles hibernate it’s called “brumation.” In winter, turtles no longer come to the water’s surface to breathe. Instead, they breathe underwater through specialized skin on their neck, legs, and tail. Baby painted turtles can even freeze solid for a few days and still survive! Though the turtles are hidden out of sight, you may be able to spot the koi even on the coldest days. They spend the winter in a similar, slowed-down state, sheltering in the warmer water under the ice.

Don’t let your kids hibernate! Get them outside to explore more incredible survival strategies of plants and animals on our Winter Survival Nature Walks for 8- to 12-Year-Olds, January 19 and February 9.

Ashley Gamell is the Discovery Garden Coordinator.

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The frozen Japanese Garden pond looks inhospitable, but turtles and fish spend their winter below the ice. Photo by Ashley Gamell