Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam

Flower and the view across the canal,
Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam
In addition to the lovely parks dotted around Amsterdam, there is a delightful little botanical garden, the Hortus Botanicus. As we were visiting in March, there wasn't much blooming in the outdoor parts of the garden, save an explosion of snowdrops and crocuses, but the greenhouses were great. It was also a great opportunity to get out of the cold and heat ourselves up.

An assortment of palms & cycads

One of the houses, the Palm House, held a large variety of cycads.  Cycads are an amazing and ancient plant that go back to the time of the dinosaurs.  The Hortus Botanicus is part of a breeding program to try to preserve cycad diversity.  If I had a greenhouse, I'd definitely put in a potted cycad - they really look Jurassic.

Processed foods and their veggies

Also in the Palm House was this adorable educational setup. They had cans and bags of various foodstuffs with the fruits and veggies they are made of growing out of them!  A potato plant grew out of a bag of potato chips; a strawberry grew out of a can of strawberry yogurt; a tomato grew out of a tin of tomato sauce.  It's a shame that so few kids have the opportunity to get out into the garden or farm and see what their food is made of.  I think this display is a great way to bring that information into an indoor setting that can reach a lot of kids (and adults).

Bumble-bee-striped butterfly

Flying Dutchmen butterflies

Lacey-winged butterfly

The Hortus Botanicus was my first experience with a butterfly house. The concept sounds very Victorian to me (I imagine white-moustached explorers with pith hats and butterfly nets) but I'm glad I visited.  The butterfly house is a long greenhouse planted with all the plants their butterfly collection need to eat and breed.  Each variety of butterfly has a particular food that it prefers, as well as a particular plant that it lays its' eggs on.  They also had a case with samples of various cocoons. The highlight was standing still while bright orange butterflies (Flying Dutchmen) flitted about our heads; truly awesome.

Flowering succlent

Spanish moss and tilandsias

Something with Seussian flowers that lacked an ID tag...

All in all, the Hortus Botanicus is tiny and very pleasant.  Even in winter there were plenty of things blooming in the greenhouses and the pathways between and around the greenhouses are very nice.  Outside there is also a lovely herb and medicine garden and a meditation pathway.  We only spent a couple hours there on this trip, but I'm sure one could easily spend half a day when the flowers really start to arrive in the spring.  And really, who wouldn't love a butterfly house?

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