The Steinhardt Conservatory in Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a greenhouse complex which holds the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s indoor plant collection in several connected structures. Plant habitats from around the world are simulated in several glasshouses connected with a large underground room. The Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery is well worth a visit and the Palm House can be rented for weddings or parties.
Entrance to Steinhardt Conservatory is into the center of three connected greenhouses. The Stephen K-M. Tim Trail of Evolution wraps around the backside of this center section. The development of the natural world over three and one-half billion years is chronicled on a continuous panel and illustrated with live plants. The rest of the room contains a large double staircase leading to the gallery and other pavilions.
To the left of the entry and Trail of Evolution, the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum features as many as one hundred specimens, some over a century old. Considered one of the finest bonsai collections in the world it’s the second largest on public display outside of Japan. Bonsai are a Zen Buddhism originated Japanese art form that attempts to represent “heaven and earth in one container.”
Aquatic House and Orchid Collection
The greenhouse to the right of the entrance and Trail of Evolution, across from the Bonsai Museum, is the Aquatic House and Orchid Collection—officially the Robert W. Wilson Aquatic House. Two pools are featured. A shallow pool recreates a naturalistic swamp environment with tropical and subtropical aquatic plants. The second, six foot deep pool displays wet environment or aquatic plants such as mosses, orchids and tree ferns. Orchids, staghorn ferns and other epiphytes hang from the walls while plant cases display venus fly-traps, pitcher plants and other insectivorous plants.
The stairs to the lower level give you access to three pavilions, or greenhouses. The one to the left is the Desert Pavilion. Like the Temperate Pavilion to the right it is smaller than the Tropical Pavilion which is straight ahead. Plants from arid regions of the American Southwest, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Peru (New World) line one side of the pavilion and those from North and South Africa, the Canary Islands, Madagascar and Nambia (Old World) are on the other in the Desert Pavilion.
Warm environment plants featured in the Helen Mattin Warm Temperate Pavilion come from the western United States, southern Africa, Asia, Australia and central China. Warm temperate climates have cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers with annual temperature ranges of 45–85 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants here have adapted to survive seasonally harsh conditions including drought and occasionally fire.
The Tropical Pavilion is the largest pavilion in the Steinhardt Conservatory’s complex. The Tropical Pavilion’s 6,000 square feet and 65-foot height allows it to accommodate the tallest trees and to house a re-creation of a tropical forest complete with waterfall and stream. Plants from the Amazon basin, African rainforest and tropical eastern Asia are organized in terms of economic uses and represent the categories of food, fragrance, industry and medicine as well as ornamental plants.
The Palm House—with a center section similar in design but much smaller than London’s Kew Gardens famous glasshouse with the same name—can be rented for wedding receptions and other events. The Steinhardt Conservatory is part of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Hours and admission prices vary depending on visitor age, day and season.
by Lee Nelson
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