26 Feb Bromeliads in the Bronx: A Visit to the New York Botanical Garden
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.