Prospect Park

Desert pavilion at Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers rainy-day respite

The Weather's wonderful in Steinhardt Conservatory's greenhouses

July 23, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Steinhardt Conservatory is a great place to hang out on rainy summer days. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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It’s going to rain. And rain. And rain.

Why not escape to the desert?

A sere landscape where tulip prickly pear cacti and Spanish dagger trees grow is just a subway ride away.

This blissfully dry-aired environment can be found inside the glass-walled Steinhardt Conservatory at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The weather inside the conservatory’s austerely beautiful Desert Pavilion greenhouse is a welcome change from the storms washing over Brooklyn.

This is just the beginning of what’s expected to be a long stretch of wet weather in our borough.

According to, the forecast calls for rain on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — then scattered thunderstorms every day next week from Monday, July 30 through Monday, Aug. 6.

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This formidable tree, which is called a Spanish dagger, can be found in the Desert Pavilion.

Candle Plants and Elephant’s Foot Plants

Steinhardt Conservatory, whose construction was completed in 1988, is one of the jewels of the century-old Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The 52-acre horticultural institution is located at the edge of Prospect Heights. The main entrance is at 990 Washington Ave.

In the Desert Pavilion, cacti come from the Southwestern United States, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s website says. Succulents come from as far away as Madagascar and South Africa.

You’ll find candle plants, elephant’s foot plants and various species you might not have heard of unless you spend lots of time at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

When you’ve had your fill of the subtle charms of this arid microenvironment, neighboring greenhouses with dramatically different climate conditions await you.

Endangered Plant Called Osa Pulchra Is on Display

In one nearby greenhouse, you’ll find the Aquatic House and Trail of Plant Evolution displays.

Some of the ferns in this greenhouse are as tall as trees. Others are so big, they look like food for dinosaurs.   

This greenhouse is the home of a must-see plant that is extremely rare, the osa pulchra.

It has long-stemmed, trumpet-shaped flowers as big as a man’s fist. The flowers are ghost-white.

A sign posted next to the osa pulchra says it’s native to Costa Rico and Panama and is endangered. Only 30 of these plants exist in the wild.

Just a few North American botanic gardens have been able to get the osa pulchra to grow.


Tranquility Among the Palms and Pine Trees

The Tropical Pavilion is in another greenhouse, which is 65 feet tall. The plants come from the wettest regions imaginable, namely the Amazon Basin, African rainforests and tropical eastern Asia, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s website says.

But you won’t need your umbrella like you do outdoors.    

It’s a treat to stroll beneath the Tropical Pavilion’s palm trees — even if they aren’t on some sun-kissed Florida beach.

A wooden bridge spans a stream.

Here and there, delicate flowers grow.

Next door, the Warm Temperate Pavilion features majestic pine trees and a stairway that ascends alongside a rock wall.

The plants in this greenhouse are natives of far-flung spots such as the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, eastern Asia, California and Chile.


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