The Arboretum at Penn State


Conservatories enable the naturalistic display of plants that cannot grow out-of-doors. Our 10,000-square-foot conservatory is designed to floristically illustrate Pennsylvania’s connections to the tropics and the unusual fact that the region has continuously supported vegetation since the emergence of the first land plants. Visitors entering the Conservatory from the Education Center will step into a time 300-400 million years ago when our area supported tropical vegetation that included the first trees and was at intervals covered with coastal swamp forests. Displays of fossils and modern descendants and analogues of those ancient plants will illustrate the plants and animals that flourished during that time and eventually formed the state’s coal beds. Over 200 million years later, as the early flowering plants evolved, the region continued to support tropical and subtropical vegetation, and descendants of that early, neo-tropical flora continue to live in our forests today. The major part of the Conservatory will be planted in a naturalistic style to suggest rich, tropical forest communities that illustrate these connections. Although the tropical plants that grew here at one time are gone, many have relatives that survive today in South America, southeastern Asia, and elsewhere, and can be used to bring this prehistoric world back to life.