The Climatron

After leaving the cold rock garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden, I entered the tropical steaminess of the Climatron, a beautiful geodesic greenhouse, opened to the public in 1960. Upon reflection I should have gone into the temperate house first, to give me and my camera lenses time to warm up before entering the humid jungle of the dome.

So I had to wait for some time while my lenses defogged, but that just gave me more of a chance to enjoy the lushness surrounding me.


I'm not really sure how to talk about this experience, as it truly is a jungle of plants. Many of them are labeled, but there is much that is not, or tags are covered by other plants. So I can't identify most of what I saw here. I can make general observations though.

Palms and palm-like plants, some of them quite huge.

There is a waterfall feeding a series of pools, providing the humidity that these plants all love:

Some of the pools contain glasswork by Dale Chihuly:

There are some large plants in here!

Quite a few flowers too, but nothing overwhelming. Foliage is king in the Climatron:

I recognize this one -- it's pineapple:

Although there were bromeliads, orchids, and other epiphytes everywhere, most of them were well out of reach. One of the side paths that goes to the edge of the dome brought me next to trees that had several different epiphytes growing at eye level or below though.

There may have been tags on these, but I didn't note them. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the plants and not worry about details like what they're called.

There are a few tropical bamboos in here too:

The problem with growing these bamboos in a dome though, is they get too tall. All of these plants had been "topped" (pruned) so didn't have the natural look that you'd see if they were growing with unlimited headroom.

What else did I see?

Sugar cane starts which I discovered on
an apparently not-frequented side path


Beautiful foliage combinations

There was a refreshingly cool draft under this vent.
Plus some annoying drips of water.

Click for larger size!

One of these cycads is from the 1904 World's Fair!

There are some impressive trees in here too:

(This panorama got a bit distorted at the top during image stitching)

I'm disappointed that I didn't record the name of this species, as it was one of my favorites:

It formed a fantastic umbrella of curvy branches that ended in spiky foliage:

This tree was located near the door that connects to the temperate house, which is where I'll be going next...

At this point I was ready to get out of the tropics and into a cooler place.

But for conservatories, you can't get much cooler than the Climatron. Definitely worth a visit if you ever come to St. Louis.


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (February 26, 2012 at 11:12 AM)  

Awesome post. I enjoyed seeing many of my favorites, including palms, bamboos and cycads. Were those cycad sees really that orange? Was the plant labeled by any chance?

Plants aside, the structure itself is fantastic, too. I love geodesic domes, maybe because they're so futuristic-looking.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax!  – (February 26, 2012 at 11:15 AM)  

I would probably have fainted after a few minutes. I don't have the right constitution for tropics. And, if I hadn't fainted from damp-heat exhaustion . . . I would have fainted because of such overwhelmingly wonderful beauty. What a place!

Alan  – (February 26, 2012 at 3:13 PM)  

Gerhard: yes they were actually that color -- I thought it was a flower when I first saw it from a distance. I don't remember if there was a tag, and I didn't notice.

Anne McCormack  – (February 26, 2012 at 9:22 PM)  

Wonderful series of photos! Whenever winter gets me down, the climatron is my remedy. There's something about all that green!

alyse.  – (February 27, 2012 at 8:10 PM)  

The last tree you feature is the common screwpine, or Pandanus utilis. It is a beautiful specimen!

My husband and I are big fans of your blog! Thanks for all the gardening inspiration.

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