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Lyman Plant House & Conservatory


Lyman Plant House contains Lyman Conservatory as well as our exhibition space, classrooms and offices. There are ten separate houses within Lyman Conservatory which are open to the public, with two more reserved as staff working spaces. Each house is calibrated for specific growing purposes, allowing plants from around the world to survive and thrive. 

Inside Lyman

With Show House, Succulent House represents the oldest section of Lyman, built as a working space and nursery for hardy woody plants in 1894. Today it holds xerophytes, or plants adapted to deserts and dry habitats such as New World cacti, Old World succulent euphorbias, and other representative aridlands plant families such as the Crassulaceae and Asphodelaceae.

With Succulent House, Show House represents the oldest section of Lyman, built as a nursery for hardy woody plants in 1894. Show House is where the first flower shows were staged in the early 1900s, continuing into the mid 1970s–and hence, we still call it “Show.” Today, this house holds an array of plants with foliar and floral scents, especially those with culinary, medicinal, perfumery or other economic uses such as salvias, mints and geraniums. 

The curved glass ceiling of Fern House identifies it as part of the Lord & Burnham expansion in 1895 which included Palm, Stove, and Warm Temperate Houses. Originally housing a diverse collection of acacias, and later becoming the cactus and succulent house, Fern House today holds many non-hardy ferns, fern allies, and other ancient plant lineages such as cycads and other early gymnosperms.

The Lord & Burnham-designed Palm House, built in 1895, is the stately centerpiece of Lyman Plant House. With its arching, curved ceiling and giant vertical glass wall panels, Palm House’s unique interior space feels much larger than it actually is. This house holds plants from tropical forests around the world: palms, trees, shrubs, climbers, epiphytes and understory perennials growing together in an environment kept warm and humid year-round. Cacao, rubber, quinine, bananas, guava, cinnamon and allspice are just a few of the economically important tropical species growing here.

Stove House, so called because it was originally heated by a wood stove (the foundation of which you can still see under the west-side bench), was added to Lyman with Palm, Fern and Warm Temperate Houses in 1895. Today this house is full of tropical orchids, bromeliads and aquatic plants growing around the perimeter of the center pool. 

Many tropical and subtropical plants grow in this house, such as collections of begonias, citrus, gloxinias and gesneriads, Venus flytraps and pitcher plants. A small tank on the west side of the house contains aquatic plants, including duckweed (Lemna minor), which is one of the smallest flowering plants.

With Cold Storage House, this house was built in 1902 as a laboratory and teaching space for William Francis Ganong, the botanic garden’s first director. The slate-topped workbenches that stand around the perimeter are evidence of the early plant physiology classes held here. Physiology has been the home for the Fall Mum and Spring Bulb Shows since the mid 1970s.

With Physiology House, this house was built in 1902 as a storage and staging space for winter dormant plants and bulbs being forced for the spring show. Today, Cold Storage hosts both the Spring Bulb and Fall Mum Show, and serves as a display space for large flowering woody plants during the months between shows.  

Added to Lyman with Camellia Corridor in 1981, Cool Temperate House is our “other” large-volume greenhouse after Palm House, rising over 25 feet. Trees and shrubs from tropical montane or subtropical regions which tolerate or require cool winter growing conditions are grouped geographically in this house, showcasing the floras of Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Australia and New Zealand.

During Lyman’s 1981 renovation, the outdoor space between two rows of glass houses was enclosed to create this long corridor reminiscent of old-style European orangeries. Here we grow plants tolerant of cool winter temperatures such as camellias, citrus, rhododendrons, epiphytic cacti and orchids. 

Warm and Cool Genetics Houses were built in 1952 and make up the Blakeslee Range, named for the distinguished geneticist Albert Francis Blakeslee, who developed the “gloriosa daisy” widely grown in gardens today. These greenhouses are used for holding dormant plants, recovering plants in poor health, growing out small or recently received plants for incorporation into Lyman’s public spaces, propagating first-year student plants, and staging spring and fall flower shows. Both Genetics Houses  are closed to the public.

A Look Behind the Scenes at Lyman

Get an understanding of the philosophies and practices that informs how Lyman Plant House and the collection it holds is managed.