The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is one of Michigan’s best public gardens. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in biodiversity, community engagement, and involvement in the promotion of the arts and nature to all who visit. The conservatory, which is a greenhouse and botanical garden, is free and open to the public daily Wednesday through Sundays, although a Michigan Recreation Passport is required to drive onto the isle. Read on to learn more about Detroit’s favorite public garden.
The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Name: The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory aka
Belle Isle Tropical Conservatory & Aquarium
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Address: 4 Inselruhe Ave, Detroit, MI 48207
Admission: Free admission, option to make a donation
to access Belle Isle by private car, a Michigan Recreation
Passport is required or a day pass can be purchased for $16
Hours: 10am – 5pm daily, closed Mondays & Tuesdays
Parking: Free parking
The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory was opened in 1904, nearly 116 years ago, and is currently the longest continually operating conservatory in the United States. Named for a Detroit native who donated more than 600 orchids to the conservatory, the garden brings joy to thousands of visitors each year. Despite Michigan’s unpredictable and often violent weather shifts, with winter weather commonly dipping well below freezing in the winter and regularly soaring above 100ºF in the summer, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory has long sheltered and nurtured Detroit’s most precious collection of tropical plants.
The conservatory, which was modeled after the palm house of Kew Gardens in London, is divided into five distinct room, one for desert dwelling plants called the Cactus House, the Tropical House is home to fruit bearing plants such as banana trees, fig trees, and orange trees, and the Show House which is frequently rearranged and replanted to display beautiful plants from around the world. The Palm House houses large palm trees within its 85 ft high ceiling, as well as arrowheads, and philodendrons, and the final room, the Fernery is a recessed area which provides more moisture to plants that require higher humidity, like ferns and some tropical plants.
No visit to Detroit is complete without admiring the koi pond outside the greenhouse, called the Lily Pond, wandering the perennial garden to the west of the gardens, admiring the art installations on the 13 acre site provided by the Detroit Institute of Arts, and gazing in wonder at the vast variety of tropical and desert plants made accessible to the public. My husband and I love escaping the extreme cold of Michigan winters and spending time inside these beautiful botanical gardens. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is second only, in my opinion, to Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan in terms of beautiful botanical gardens and educational value in the state of Michigan.
If you have extra time in the Motor City, visit the USA’s longest continually run conservatory, marvel at the massive plants, and feel transported to a tropical paradise right in the heart of Detroit! Next door to the conservatory is a small aquarium that’s free to visit as well!
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