Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Belle Isle
Detroit’s Belle Isle has long been a favorite destination for residents of the state’s largest metro area as well as visitors from out of town. Now a Michigan state park, it is home to the James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse, the Belle Isle Nature Center, the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and more. The conservancy is not only open to the public free of charge, it is also the oldest continually-running conservancy in the United States. A walk through the five sections is a treat for visitors as the conservancy showcases an amazing collection of exotic and rare plants from around the world.
The Conservatory and its neighbor, the Belle Isle Aquarium, opened in 1904 and were designed by Albert Kahn (who also designed the Fisher Building, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Plant, the Packard Automotive Plant, Willow Run, and more). The original wooden frame was replaced with an aluminum and steel skeleton in 1949. “On April, 6, 1955, the Conservatory was dedicated to Anna Scripps Whitcomb who donated her 600 plant orchid collection to the City of Detroit.” You can find out more and download a brochure at https://www.belleisleconservancy.org/anna-scripps-whitcomb-conservatory. The Conservatory is open Wednesday-Sunday, from 10AM-5PM and offers free parking and admission.
The first of five sections visitors encounter is the Palm House, where a collection of palm trees from around the world reach almost to the top of the dome (85 feet). Two of the types of palm trees found in this room are the Canary Island Date Palm and the Lipstick Palm. Other tropical plants found in this room include avocado, cacao, and an African sausage tree.
The Tropical House is home to many fruit-bearing plants. Lemons, bananas, and oranges were a few that we saw during our visit. Plants in this part of the conservatory come from Brazil, South Africa, Asia, Portugal, and other locations.
The Show House features changing displays of flowering plants. One of the highlights there during our visit was the Black Bat Flower that had recently bloomed. Displays in this room rotate frequently, but you can usually expect to find some many vines and colorful flowers that are, as the name implies, “show” pieces for the conservatory.
The Cactus House has a stunning collection of succulents and cactuses. This was probably my favorite section, and I enjoyed seeing all the different sizes and shapes of cactuses from Mexico, Africa, and South America.
The Fernery features plants from Australia, Japan, and other locations in a sunken setting that allows for more humidity and cooler conditions.
The outdoor area is also worth checking out in the warmer months. “On the grounds is the Levi Barbour Memorial Fountain designed by Marshall Fredericks, a Japanese Tohro donated to Detroit in 1985 by the city of Toyota, Japan, and the Peacock Sundial erected in 1927.”
Below are a few more of our favorite pictures from our visit to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory:
The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is located at 4 Inselruhe Ave. on Belle Isle in Detroit. A Michigan Recreation Passport is required for entry onto the island, but visiting the conservatory is one of many family-friendly and free things to do once you’re on the island.