Garden Photo of the Day

Visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden

Checking out a greenhouse in the heart of Washington, D.C.

I had a chance to visit Washington, D.C., recently and spent some time in one of my favorite spots in that city. Sitting right on the National Mall, the U.S. Botanic Garden is a beautiful conservatory full of a lot of beautiful plants. Here are some of my favorite shots from the desert house in the conservatory.

Stapelia gigantea. This odd plant from Africa, which is a relative of milkweeds, produces these absurdly huge, weird-looking flowers. The blooms smell like rotting meat but weren’t producing their scent when I visited. If you love this plant but don’t have a greenhouse, don’t worry—they do quite well on a sunny windowsill.

When we think of orchids, we usually think of rainforests, but this yellow orchid, Zelenkoa onusta, is actually native to deserts in South America, where it lives perched on the side of cactus and desert trees! It is very cool, and the flowers are lovely.

I love the huge, silver, spiky leaves of Aloe marlothii.

Compare this Agave parryi subsp. parryi to the aloe in the previous photo, and you get a good example of convergent evolution. The agave and the aloe look very similar, but they’re from completely different parts of the world (North America and Africa, respectively) and aren’t closely related. They both live in deserts, however, and have converged on the same overall shape to thrive in that climate.

Cleistocactus winteri is a cactus I think I need to get. What a cool-looking plant! I’d love to see it growing in a hanging basket.

Hailing all the way from Madagascar, this Kalanchoe beharensis is a distinctive plant, with leaves that are thick, fleshy, and fuzzy. It eventually grows into a shrub or even a small tree.


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  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 11/29/2018

    How gratifying that the plants in U.S. Botanic Garden's Conservatory are so beautifully presented and maintained. I enjoyed your pointing out the similarity between the aloe and the agave. The Cleistocactus winteri looks particularly cool tumbling from the rock crevice....although, gulp, it reminded me of baby snakes spilling out to start their lives.

  2. paiya 11/29/2018

    Growing up in a part of South Africa where drought was common we learned to cherish these plants. The aloe and agave are particularly beautiful

  3. [email protected] 11/30/2018

    Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed the garden on my visit to the DC area a few years ago.

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