What to See at America's Best Botanical Gardens
At America's best botanical gardens and conservatories, you can travel from jungle to desert to lagoon in just a few steps. To build such rich, biologically diverse collections, these organizations scour the world for their specimens—which include some of the strangest in the plant world. Below, we've compiled a list of some of the best botanical gardens in the US, and one unusual, rare, or especially unique plant to see at each of them.
Chicago Botanic Garden | Glencoe, Illinois
What to See: Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys)
What Makes It Special: In the wild, jade vines grow upside down, an adaptation that attracts its primary pollinator: bats!
Best Chance to See It Bloom: The Chicago Botanic Garden's single specimen, which arches above a walkway in the facility's center greenhouse, typically blooms in mid April.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden | Coral Gables, Florida
What to See: Vanilla Orchid (Vanilla planifolia
What Makes It Special: The botanical diva takes around eight years to mature, then blooms once every spring for only 24 hours. It must then be hand-pollinated within the first 12 hours so it can grow the following year.
Best Chance to See It Bloom: During the garden's International Orchid Festival in early March. Otherwise, some of the onsite species of vanilla orchid may start to bloom between April and July.
San Francisco Botanical Garden| San Francisco, California
What to See: Giant Agave (Agave salmiana)
What Makes It Special: A massive succulent, the giant agave can grow up to 6 feet tall and only blooms once every 35 years. You may already know this Southwestern native from its liquid form: tequila!
Best Chance to See It Bloom: San Francisco Botanical Garden has been fortunate enough to average one flowering giant agave per year, which you can see throughout the summer months.
United States Botanic Garden | Washington, DC
What to See: Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum)
What Makes It Special: The corpse flower gets its name from the stench it gives off when it blooms, which has been compared to rotting fish, Limburger cheese, garlic, and feet. Fun! If that doesn't sound particularly appealing, take heart: it can take up to 10 years for a corpse flower to bloom, so you can probably time your visit to avoid this unique, magical, and totally disgusting experience.
Best Chance to See It Bloom: United States Botanic Garden's last corpse flower bloomed in 2016, and the garden tends to display the plants every few years (they have total of 15 specimens). Check USBG's website for a blooming announcement.