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Photo essay: World Deserts exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden Special

By Leigh Goessl     Aug 13, 2013 in Travel
Washington - The United States Botanic Garden houses a wonderful collection of plants. Every day many people enter the conservatory's doors in order to get a glimpse at the often rare, and always beautiful, collections.
The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) conservatory, which is located at the foot of the Capitol building in Washington, is filled with tens of thousands of plants. From rare plants to some flora you might see in your backyard, the collections are vast and eclectic.
One noteworthy exhibit is 'World Deserts,' which is located in the rear of the conservatory. This exhibit, which the USBG describes as filled with "succulents, grasses, shrubs and other flowering plants," is truly beautiful. There are approximately 250 plants representing about 175 different species in this collection.
In 2001, after the USBG Conservatory went through a four-year renovation, the World Deserts exhibit was opened in its current form. Looking around, it is clear a lot of care is taken to nurture and grow these beautiful plants. Additionally, all of the cacti and succulents within the exhibit are clearly labeled with each plant's information, such as the plant's common name, scientific name and place of origin.
"Both Old World and New World deserts are highlighted with representatives from the Cactaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and succulent genera from the South African Cape region," Laura Condeluci, Public Programs Coordinator, told Digital Journal in an email. "Of particular note are the Welwitschia, Encephalartos horridus (a Wilkes expedition plant from the mid-1800s), saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), Pereskia grandifolia-representing an early lineage of leafy cacti, and a variety of aloes."
On my visit, I entered the World Deserts collection by passing through the jungle exhibit. After entering the doors, I was greeted into a bright and airy room.
While the World Deserts exhibit is in its current design since 2001, the conservatory told Digital Journal it has historically been maintaining cacti and succulents. In addition to the number of cacti and succulents on display to the public, the USBG has many others that are displayed only on occasion. Many of these small and/or rare plants are kept at USBG's greenhouse facility.
Some of the plants arrive as endangered or rescue plants. The USBG participates as a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) rescue center.
The U.S. Botanic Garden has a long history in Washington. With an idea conceived by some of America's founding fathers, the proposal was brought to fruition in the 19th Century. Over the years there have been many renovations as the garden and its collections have been expanded. According to the facility's website, the gardens have been continuously operational and open to the public since 1850.
Today 1.2 million people visit the Botanic Garden each year. The facility also holds many special exhibits throughout the year, including its beautiful holiday displays and the more recent, Titan arum ("corpse flower") blooming, which Digital Journal recently had the opportunity to photograph.
The U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory is open to the public, free of charge every day of the year. It is located at 100 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington D.C. More information can be found at the USBG website.
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