New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Bromeliads in the Bronx: A Visit to the New York Botanical Garden

Photos by Ryan Benoit

Set on 250 acres and home to one million living plants, the New York Botanical Garden is one of our Happy Places even (especially!) during the winter. When the season’s flinging its worst, the paperbark maple near the Seasonal Walk, its trunk peeling in shades of copper, is showing its best. Same thing goes for the water lilies in the aquatic garden, the stiff starburst Bismarkia in the “Palm Dome,” and the opportunistic orchids in the lowland tropics room, all housed inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. The setup seems designed to send you back into the world a smarter and more centered person, to stretch your boundaries for astonishment in a city that’s seen it all.

Like the Whitney or the Guggenheim, NYBG is a museum. But in place of paintings, plants are the focus. Being a classical botanical garden, the organization is dedicated to studying, preserving, exhibiting and teaching us about the world’s horticulture. Researchers go on international expeditions throughout the year to collect flora.

Last month we took a trip up to NYBG in the Bronx, which holds a whopping 30,000 mature trees alone; we walked the landscape, played Guess That Deciduous Branch, and spent hours exploring the toasty, sun-drenched Haupt Conservatory, whose greenhouses cultivate tropical, desert and aquatic plants.

Initially we thought it would be a production to get up here. But it turns out NYBG is just 20 minutes from Grand Central on Metro North. The Garden has its own station on the Harlem local line, which drops you off right across the street. Details here.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The garden is just 20 minutes from Grand Central on Metro North.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

We bought our tickets and entered through the Mosholu Gate located directly across the street from the train station.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

This gleaming paperback maple (Acer griseum) is a crowd favorite thanks to its exfoliating bark, which adds showy interest to winter gardens.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

See the way it catches the midday light? In the spring, this paperback maple (Acer griseum) will grow three-lobed leaves with gray undersides.

We visited on January 1st — a great way to start the year. We saw plants we’d never seen before — like the Cavendishia grandifolia, whose cartoonish tubular flowers are green, white and cosmic pink with an acrylic sheen, growing in clusters resembling udders — and plants that we have seen before, like bromeliads and anthuriums, only taken to the nth degree in size and number.  The ferns were on fleek. Some (like the Mexican tree fern) were taller than both of us combined and others (like the staghorn) grew together in a massive chandelier that looks like it’s been engulfed in green flames. The vines (jade, Dutchman’s pipe) that we saw in the aquatic section inspired us to get some more for our own home.

By the way, don’t miss the garden’s series of Orchid Evenings!

So deep in winter, and so much to see. Explore the garden with us below.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Sunshine over the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a glasshouse in the Victorian style. The “rooms” within include “Deserts of Africa,” “Deserts of the Americas” and “Upland Tropical Rain Forest.”

NYBG

In fact, here they are! A map of the conservatory. We started in the “Palms of the World” garden and walked clockwise. Take a virtual tour here.

New York Botanical Garden: Palms of the World

Our first stop was the “Palm Dome,” whose highlights include the Puerto Rican hat palm, Australian tree ferns and cycads that made for dreamy (make that treemy) overhead views.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The overhead views are divine in the palm tree garden.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Below the canopy of palm trees are shade loving plants including Maranta leuconeura, or prayer plant.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

From left, nerve plant (Fittonia albivenis) and Crypthathus bromeliads.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

We might have seen a Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis) like this somewhere before…

Lowland Tropical Rain Forest

The air is muggy — can you tell? And the room is awash with leafy things. Enormous, heart-shaped anthurium leaves do their thing among cocoa trees whose modest white flowers growing directly from the bark.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

A human-made arched kapok tree with an assortment of bromeliads, orchids and anthurium.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Cattleya maxima (orchid) mix with species of bromeliads and anthuriums on that hand-crafted repro of a kapok tree.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Anthurium magnificum.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Vriesea fosteriana.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Pavonia cauliflora.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Theobroma cacao or cocoa plant.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

As you can see, that cocoa tree is fruiting. The plant is cauliflorous, meaning its flowers and fruits grow directly from trunks and branches, rather than from twigs.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Another kapok tree in the lowland rain forest gallery.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Aquatic Plants and Vines

Plenty of vine-spiration here in the vine and aquatic plants section. We took back several ideas for our home, including planting a jade vine (flowers are an unreal shade of turquoise) and a Dutchman’s pipe, which blooms in flat, velvety, heart-shaped flowers, and whose buds resemble (what’ll ya know) tobacco pipes. We were tempted to try growing the Indian clock vine, but we don’t think that we have enough humidity in our zone 10B garden.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Three arched trellises form layers of vines over the pond. First is Dutchman’s pipe, then Indian clock vine and jade vine.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Above, Thunbergia mysorensis, also called Mysore trumpetvine or Indian clock vine.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Stunning, right? Another view of the Indian clock vine.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

…And another.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

We love this too: Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). We were so inspired we’ve already ordered one for our garden for our new copper trellises.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Manyflower marsh pennywort, or dollarweed (Hydrocotyle umbellata).

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Water lilies.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Vanda orchids and Spanish moss cut a romantic shape against the glass.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Cyperus alternifolius ‘Variegatus.’ Also known as umbrella papyrus.

Upland Tropical Rain Forest

Here we caught up with some of our favorite epiphytes, like the bromeliads that have taken over trees for physical support. (We also saw the largest bro’ we’ve ever seen.) Could this inspire a DIY project at home?

Also ahead: the madcap flowers of neotropical berries!

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Aechmea fasciata takeover!

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Aechmea nudicaulis grow out of this tree.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Now we’re tempted to wrap a tree or post with bromeliads. Chicken wire over long fibre sphagnum seems to do the trick.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Ceratostema rauhii in a hanging basket. Is anyone else getting Cousin Itt? A pair of sunglasses and the look would be complete.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Imperial bromeliad or Vriesea imperialis on the left. Mexican tree fern (Cibotium Schiedei) and some eerie photobombing on the right.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Ryan versus the Mexican tree fern.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Another imperial bromeliad. This cultivar is Vriesea imperialis ‘Malbec.’

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Ceratostema silvicola, or sagalita. Its neotropical blueberries grow in the threatened cloud forests of the Andes.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

A Cavendishia grandifolia (another neotropical blueberry) in flower. The berries are edible and up to four times richer in antioxidants compared to temperate blueberries, NYBG research has found.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The route to the Deserts of the Americas room.

Deserts of the Americas

The mood here is bluer, drier and also more familiar. Our beloved air plants mix with cacti and yucca we see in our own yard and neighborhood.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Tillandsia (air plant) assortments line the entrance to Deserts of the Americas. From left: Tillandsia albida, Tillandsia bergeri (2), Tillandsia jucunda, Tillandsia hondurensis, Tillandsia streptophylla and Tillandsia xerographica.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Yucca faxoniana, or Spanish dagger.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Mother-of-pearl plant, or ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense).

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Cleistocactus samaipatanus.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Echinocactus grusonii or golden barrel cactus.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Cereus hildmannianus ‘Monstrosus’ or giant club.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

An Agave attenuata (foxtail agave) flower tangles with a nearby tree cactus.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Pilosocereus leucocephalus.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Also known as old man cactus for its thick wool, this species is pollinated largely by bats.

Deserts of Africa

We’re in awe of these plants that have evolved to survive the Sahara: towering euphorbias with upraised quilted arms, stone-like Lithops succulents, and a Madagascar palm that is a prickly wonder.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The Lithops collection.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Silver dollar plant (Xerosicyos danguyi).

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Crassula ovata, or jade plant. The blossomy snowballs remind us of our own plant.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Desert candle (Euphorbia abyssinica).

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Pachypodium rutenbergianum, or Madagascar palm.

Seasonal Exhibits

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The carnivorous plants display.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Brocchina reducta (top) is one of a few species of carnivorous bromeliads.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

A Nepenthes truncata pitcher plant dangles overhead.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Nepenthes truncata.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Platycerium alcicorne (staghorn ferns) are arranged like chandeliers.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Codiaeum variegatum ‘Fantasy,’ or croton. You might remember all the crotons we saw during our trip to Kauai…

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Stapelia gigantea, or giant starfish flower.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Vanda orchids.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Vanda orchid.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Water tassel fern, or rock tassel fern (Huperzia squarrosa).

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The train show is a major draw during the holidays. We bypassed the long lines to focus on the plants instead, but got to see some of the toy locomotives in action.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Inspired by past Horticult subject Natalie Bessell, we walk through Tulip Tree Allée on our way to check out the botanical illustration exhibit at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

The tulip trees were dormant for the winter but we still stopped to admire the fruits’ outer rings of winged seeds still in place on their stems.

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

Sorry sir, no photos!

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

New York Botanical Garden Winter Conservatory Tour - The Horticult

It was a good trip. Hopefully we’ll be back in time to see the magnolias in bloom!

  • thesmellofroses2

    Thanks for the post! I feel as I was there myself. 🙂

    http://www.thesmellofroses.com

  • Lee Roversi

    “ I do what I love and what people will enjoy. Nobody knows quite how the world is going to shape itself, but as long as people care about art and books and flowers, the world will be a good place to live. I believe—and always have—that things
    of beauty and joy endure.” Enid Haupt

  • Tommy Ogren

    Great article! Say, anyone interested in getting a bunch of really neat new gardening books (including mine!) please check out: http://www.booksforbetterliving.com/gardening-book-giveaway/

  • Your pictures are incredible here…particularly the nerve plant and the crypthathus! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • The Cavendishia grandifolia is new to me. The blooms are so unique and pretty. They remind me of the lipstick plant, although not quite the same.