As a kid growing up in California, I knew about the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Gardens because it was featured in the Life Nature book on Plants. I was not dissapointed when I got to finally go there as a teenager in 1977. I got to go again in 1978.
That was the last time until a couple of weeks ago. My wife thought it was rather odd that I should be making so much over visiting a botanical garden, since I haven't made much of an effort to visit the by-all-accounts excellent gardens and arboretums near where we live in Texas. As we were drivng there, I mentioned that the Missouri Botanical Gardens (opened to the public in 1859!) is one of the leading centers for conservation research and funding in the US, ranking with the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History, The Zoological Society of San Diego, the Wildlife Conservation Society (which runs the Bronx Zoo), the California Academy of Sciences, the Field Museum, Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley in these endeavours. Vital research in Botany, Ecology, and other natural sciences has been conducted there, and around the world on its behalf, for many years.
When I visited in the 1970's, the rather modest entrance was near the Famous Climatron (opened in 1960). Now there is a huge new entrance in a different place. As we approached it I told my wife I guessed we'd pay about $15 each as admission. I was dumbfounded to find it was $8 per adult!
The Climatron was remodeled in 1990. It remains one of the great enclosed environments in the US. Being in a botanical garden, there are not many animals in it. Of the several sorts of birds, I saw a Silver-billed Tanager. The old aqua-tunnel, which apparently worked better in theory than in practice, and which in my 1970's visits featured primarily guppies and algea-eaters, was replaced, in 1990, with a large aquarium at the end of a path, with Leporinus, Severums, Chalceus, and Plecostomus.
I think everyone will experience their own special adventure with the Climatron's plants. For me it was standing in the midst of dozens of other-worldly flowers of a Pendulim Hibiscus, which reminded me of a set from "Avatar", discovering a Jaboticaba tree, with its bizarre marble-like fruit growing directly out of its trunk, a wonderful assortment of giant Ginger flowers, aireal Pitcherplants that my wife pointed out to me, and coming across a miniature rice paddy.
Attached to the Climatron is a interpretative center filled with hands-on activities for both children and grownups, enhancing one's knowldege and appreciation of our wolrd's living things. Various small animals are exhibited here, including South American and Central American Poison Arrow Frogs (in separate displays), Day Geckos, and Freshwater Puffers in a miature mangrove swamp.
It was a rather warm day, so we did not venture into the enormous Japanese Garden, ad some of the other outdoor exhibits, but we thorougly enjoyed the outdoor displays of tropical water lillies (with the fantastic giant Victoria Regia lilly), Day Lillies, Mallows, and many native woodland plants. There is also a wonderfully informative gardening center, with folks continuously at hand to answere questions. It was amusing to see a series of small square plots, each featuring a different sort of lawn. There were also appropriate plants for the windows at each exposurre of a house.
The entrance complex features a Chihully glass sculpture (with more scattered around the gardens), an enormous shop that one could easily spend an hour in, a gallery of Boehm Porcelin birds (which I think used to be exhibited at the St. Louis Zoo), and a delightful restaraunt called "Sasafras". My wife had the "Ottoman Salad" with tabouli and hummous, and I had a "English Country Garden" salad, with cooked crimini mushrooms, bacon, walnuts, some very good cheese, and a maple dressing - unlike any salad I'd had before. That was definitely a pleasent conclusion to a wonderful visit.
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