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Great DC Outing for the Holidays – Trains and More at the US Botanic Garden

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Euglossine orchid bee pollinating a vanilla orchid flower in the train exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden.


If you’re looking for something fun (and educational) to do between now and New Year’s Day, the U.S. Botanic Garden gets my enthusiastic vote, especially since their beloved trains are running outdoors! (Thanks to covid, and now permanent.) It’s weather-permitting, of course, but the long lines to see the trains are thankfully gone. (A former Behnkes employee, who’s in charge of keeping leaves off the tracks, among her many duties, told me the trains do operate during light rains.)

The trains are running Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Visitors info here. You can take the Metro’s Green Line to Gallery Place or Archives and walk from there.

In its second year outdoors, the train show now features 10 sculptures of pollinating animals and the plants they pollinate, and they’re revelatory, I tell you! Like this gecko pollinating a Trochetia flower (whatever that is.)

And this lemur pollinating a traveler’s tree flower. That’s one pollinator I won’t be trying to attract to my garden!

All the new pollinator sculptures (like the replicas of DC’s iconic buildings inside the Conservatory) were made exclusively from plant parts, by this amazing company just outside Cincinnati. The signage near each sculpture is excellent.

DC Landmarks and Poinsettias inside the Conservatory

Inside the Conservatory you’ll find 20+ replicas of DC landmarks and monuments – all very cool, with architectural details fashioned from hundreds of dried plant materials. You’ll find lots of info about them here:DC Landmarks Building Materials Guide.  Above, the U.S. Botanic Garden’s own Conservatory.

This replica of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at the memorial to him is a recent addition.

The Conservatory also showcases poinsettias, including this year lots that are 6-foot tall. (Staff told me that in the tropics, they can reach 30 feet!)

And Christmas Trees  All Over Town

Just across the street from the Conservatory you’ll find this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree, fresh from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. It’s my favorite of the eight Christmas trees in prominent spots around D.C. that I reviewed in this garden blog article.

Credit for this beautiful night photo.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog weekly at GardenRant.com.

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