The Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House

What to look for in the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House
When you enter the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House, look down at the floor made of native Miami oolite. See how many fossils you can spot. They represent the ancient marine life present when South Florida was under water millions of years ago. Approach the railing and look over the pond to see orange, metallic blue, white, and spotted African Cichlids darting around artist Dale Chihuly’s End of Day Tower glass sculpture.

As you enter the pathways, look carefully around you at the rare philodendrons, anthuriums, pentagonias and orchids. Don’t miss the Amherstia nobilis, “Pride of Burma” tree with its orchid-like pink flowers. It is endemic to Burma (now Myanmar), and likes to flower from January to March. As you continue, view the rock walls covered in ferns and other epiphytes. Round the corner and there are petrified logs on the ground; across the path is a forest of the beautiful rare red sealing wax palms.

Turn right at the Freycinetia cumingiana and check out the Nepenthes pitcher plant. Or continue into the Rare Plant House and look down for the bat plant (Tacca chantrieri). It gets its name because its black flowers look somewhat like a bat!

To the right is the rock wall overlook into the sunken area and another pond. Massive tree ferns lend a primitive feel here while sheltering other plants from the sun.

Look up and find the Corchid tree, donated to Fairchild by the American Orchid Society. It may look like an epiphyte-covered tree, but it’s artificial, covered with cork and inhabited by flowering orchids, tillandsia, ferns, moss and other airplants!

Continue over the bridge; on one side is Dale Chihuly’s sculpture Copper Frog Foot Ikebana Stem and Lapis Blue Split Bud graces the damp rocks and ferns, while the other side looks down into the pond. Can you spot the beautiful African Cichlid and Koi?

Look for rare gingers, calathias, kava kava, breadfruit, Seychelles stilt palms, costas, begonias and vireya rhododendrons.  You’ll need multiple trips around the paths, and each time you look, you’ll discover more.

Why do we need a conservatory in South Florida?
Even in Miami’s sub-tropical environment, winter temperatures can regularly dip into the 40s or below. That’s too cold and drying for truly tropical plants, which would be damaged or killed by cold or dry conditions. The Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House is protected from cold and wind. There are two sections, with the upper section, The Tropical Plant Conservatory, partitioned to ensure a higher temperature is maintained and the lower section, the Rare Plant House, open to the elements but with additional sun protection. The Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House features plants that require soil with a higher pH than our rocky, alkaline soil can provide. Some small, delicate and easily overlooked plants are sheltered in the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House for their protection and our enjoyment.