Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 62 acre facility founded, developed, funded and operated by the North Florida Botanical Society, a non-profit educational organization. In 1978, the Society signed a lease agreement with Alachua County whereby it gained access to a 33 acre tract of land for the development of a public botanical garden; in 1982, an additional 29 acre parcel was added to the lease, bringing Kanapaha Botanical Gardens to its present size. The Gardens' name is derived from its proximity to 250 acre Lake Kanapaha. The word Kanapaha is derived from the Timucua Indian words for "palmetto leaf" and "house." Taken together, they refer to the thatched dwellings that were home to the original residents of a small Timucua village on the western shore of Lake Kanapaha. Between 1978 and 1987, the infrastructure and initial plantings were completed and Kanapaha Botanical Gardens was formally opened to the public on October 16, 1987.