Our geodesic-domed conservatory has been an iconic destination since it first opened on a frigid day in December 1979. The conservatory stands 80 feet tall at its highest point and measures 150 feet wide. It is comprised of 665 molded Plexiglas® panels set within an anodized aluminum skeleton. It’s a destination for immersion and a one-of-a-kind way to move immediately from tundra-like winter weather to the balmy atmosphere of the tropics.
The collections grown in the conservatory, the Gardeners Show House and the production greenhouses represent the purest expression of the Botanical Garden’s mission of exploring, explaining and celebrating plant diversity through a reference collection of pantropical species. Historically, this collection consisted primarily of plants from the acanthus, agave, palm, cactus, banana and orchid families. Over time, it has evolved to balance ornamental exhibition with botanical education, representing notable specimens from those families of historic interest while creating seasonally dynamic displays that celebrate the art of horticulture and planting design.
It is likely that the early advocates for a public garden in Des Moines were introduced to geodesic domes by visiting the Climatron, built at Missouri Botanical Garden in 1960, the pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and the American Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal, now known as the Montreal Biosphere. While the earliest known geodesic structure was built in Germany and opened to the public in 1926, the idea is most often associated with an American visionary, R. Buckminster Fuller. Visit our History page to learn more about how our Garden came to be.