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Flowers in bloom at the Lincoln Park Conservatory

Lincoln Park Conservatory, Chicago, IL
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The Lincoln Park Conservatory‘s annual Spring Flower Show started Jan. 22 and will continue through May 8.

The conservatory was designed not only to showcase hundreds of exotic plants but also to grow and maintain thousands of flowers needed for parks around the city.

The Palm House, more then 45 feet long, is the centerpiece of the conservancy. It is home to more then two dozen different species of palms from all over the world. The oldest and largest palms in the Lincoln Park and Garfield Park Conservatories are the Scheela palms; they were grown from seeds collected during an expedition to Brazil in 1926, according to one of the signs in the Palm House.

Joel McMann, one of many volunteers at the conservatory, said his favorite plant in the Palm House is the philodendron. “It’s very impressive, I mean most palms all sort of look the same, but the philodendron is the king of all palms,” McMann said.

The Fern Room houses plants from prehistoric times of the dinosaurs. Cycads, among other plants, are the first seed- producing plants and the oldest living thing in the conservatory. The cycad in the Fern Room, which was native to the area, is around 200 years old and has been alive since before Chicago was established.

The cycads are “cool” because the history behind them is amazing, McMann said. “They’re sought after on the black market because they are endangered. The plants are even micro chipped so people can’t steal them,” he said.

The Orchid House for many years housed only orchids, but now it is home to many different types of epiphytes.

Epiphytes are plants that are categorized by the way they live. In this case they live by growing upon other plants. This is an adaptation for harvesting more light.

The more popular and well-known epiphytes include orchids, cacti, ferns and mosses.

Orchids are the most popular of the epiphyte family, according to the signs in the Orchid House. Some say growing orchids is not only hard but also addicting.

“The hardest plants to maintain in the conservatory would be the orchids. It just seems to me like nobody really knows how to grow them,” McMann said, laughing.

The conservatory draws many willing volunteers and also is very popular among photographers.

Kim Gorchmel, a recreational photographer, said she loves to come to the Lincoln Park Conservatory because of all the different colors. “My favorite flower is the hibiscus. I really love tropical flowers; they are the most colorful,” said Gorchmel.

For most guests, the conservatory is a green, lush place to get away from the noise of the city streets. In the conservatory one might only hear the drips of leaky pipes and ambient animal noises from the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo.

The conservatory was built in stages between 1890 and 1895. It was designed by Joseph Silsbee, a well-known architect of the Victorian era.

It was Maxwell Farina’s first time at the conservatory, and he said he had the time of his life.

“I like that there are so many different types of plants that you wouldn’t see unless you came to the conservatory,” said Farina. “I will definitely be coming back. This place is awesome, and it’s free!

Another visitor who declined to give her last name, Gloria, said she likes to come for the flower show. “I come once a year and I am still exploring,” she said.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory offers free admission. It is located at 2391 N. Stockton Drive. It is open everyday of the week, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The annual Spring Flower Show will continue until May 8.

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