I wasn’t the only one escaping the chilly cloudy weather outside when I visited the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatary on Belle Isle this weekend.
The over 110-year-old conservatory was busy with couples, families, and photographers exploring the beautiful holiday floral displays as well as the ferns, cacti, and tropical plants.
To my right was a family of four leaning over the railing, peering past the orchids into the foilage of the tropical plants.
His mom smiled as she picked up her small daughter and replied, “We love it here. We come here almost every week. He knows the plants and trees well.”
She added, “It’s a treasure hunt for the kids to find where the staff have hidden the King Kong and dinosaur.”
It made me smile to hear families came out regularly to visit the conservatory.
I walked out to the domed center of the conservatory, and met a photographer who was talking pictures of the the towering Fishtail Palm, a native tree of southeast Asia. “The palm tree is over 100 years old,” he told me, as he pointed out the dark fruit hanging on the side of the tree. I looked up and saw the top of the palm had almost reached the dome.
“Any idea what happens when the palm reaches the top?” I asked the photographer. He didn’t know, but suggested I ask one of the conservatory staff members before I left.
I explored the show house where the holiday flowers and plants filled the room with bright colors, and then spent some time checking out the cacti and ferns before I found a staff member to ask questions about the conservatory.
Designed by Albert Kahn, the conservatory first opened in 1904. It was dedicated and renamed the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory in 1953 when Whitcomb died and left her 600-plant orchid collection to the City of Detroit.
While the Belle Isle Conservatory is now run by the State of Michigan and has state employees who work at the conservatory (as of 2014), volunteers from the Belle Isle Conservancy nonprofit group are actively involved with work and upkeep.
And yes, I did find King Kong and the dinosaur. As well as the two bunnies hiding in the showroom. When you visit the conservatory, I hope you have fun finding them, too.