All aboard for the Holiday Express! The Season’s Greenings display officially opens on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) at the US Botanic Garden (100 Maryland Ave. SW) but a few lucky little horticulturalists were treated to a preview Wednesday.
This year’s display features sculptures of pollinators scattered throughout a diorama that features 10 different model trains. The sculptures include some characters you’ve come to associate with polination, like bees, bats and mosquitos.
But there are a few surprises, said U.S. Botanic Garden Assistant Horticultural Manager Dave Kidwell Slak. Did you know the fur of the black and white ruffled lemur is key to the pollination of the traveler’s tree flower? Ot that the brush tongues of the pygmy possum allow it to feed and so, pollinate a variety of banksia flowers?
Critically for the treats that are a critical part of the upcoming season, you’ll meet the tiny chocolate midge, only .3 of an inch. The midge pollinates the cacao flower. Without these tiny bugs, there would be no holiday chocolate!
“They’re very small in real life,” Kidwell Slak said of the chocoalate midge, “so we’ve blown them and the other pollinators up as sculptures in the train display, to show the different ways they pollinate.” The midge is shown at nearly a foot, wedged into a cacao plant.
All the sculptures are made of plants themselves. Inside the conservatory, you’ll also find plant-based models of 22 National Landmarks in DC, including the White House, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the U.S. Capitol Building and more. There are also more than 1,000 ponsettias!
The US Botanic Garden is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every. single. day, including Thanksgiving. For three Thursdays in December –Dec. 14, 21 and 28 — both the conservatory and outdoor train display will stay open until 8 p.m. and feature holiday evenings. But they are closed Dec. 25.
See the display until Jan. 1! Visit during the week if you can, because it gets busy holidays and weekends. Note that the outdoor train exhibit may not run during inclement weather.
The exhibit is free and open to all! Branch out this holiday and see all the plants at the US Botanic Garden. Learn more: www.usbg.gov/holiday