Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

The conservatory displays plants from three major life and climate zones—or “biomes”—around the world. (Scroll down for images of each climate zone.) Each biome has its own section, or “house” introduced below. Our living collections serve students and faculty in a wide range of sciences and the arts. We also feature a display of bonsai year-round in the temperate house. The plants in the conservatory are selected to represent:


  • important vegetation types in each biome
  • plant diversity through evolution
  • species or habitats at risk of extinction
  • human domesticates of special interest as medicinal or iconic plants

The conservatory opened in 1964. It is a commission by Alden B. Dow and is an exceptionally rare structure. It is believed to be the largest free-span (no supporting columns) conservatory of its structural style and represents a technological limit of architectural materials and climate controls in the era before computer models.

Extensive renovation of the conservatory was made possible through the generous gifts of Robert and Marge Alpern. The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust helped fund plant labeling and interpretive materials. If you would like to help support Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, please contact Meredith Olson, our director of development.

Conservatory at Matthaei

Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Conservatory Climate Zones