The plants in the Plant Biology Conservatory are from tropical areas around the world. Over 200 species and 60 families of plants currently grow in the conservatory. You will see a diversity of plant forms, like trees, shrubs, herbs and vines. Terrestrial, aquatic and epiphytic habitats are another type of diversity displayed here as well. The landscaping installation was completed in September 1991; all plantings have been made since then. The room is 2,000 square feet and has a maximum height of 37 feet. Many university classes in Plant Biology, Horticulture, Fine and Applied Art, and other curriculums use the Conservatory as a teaching laboratory.

  The Plant Biology Conservatory

Male Cone on Cycas revolutaCycads are among the most primitive living seed plants. Their 9 genera represent the remnants of an extensive flora that was dominated by Cycads in the early Mesozoic, about 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Most of these slow growing plants have an erect, thick stem covered with leaf bases and a crown of large fern- or palm-like leaves. Cycads are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

In the conservatory you will find six different species of cycads. Cycads are a tropical evergreen. They are in the gymnosperm phylum, the same group as pine trees, firs, and other temperate evergreens. Gymnosperms have one common attribute, the naked seed. The seed of gymnosperms is produced in modified leaves that resemble cones. These gymnosperms are relicts of the age of dinosaurs. They are one of the most primitive living seed plants. The Dioon spinulosum, located in the northeast corner of the conservatory, is estimated to be over 1000 years old.

Many of the Cycads are from a collection from Dr. Charles J. Chamberlain, a professor in the Botany Department at the University of Chicago at the beginning of the 1900's. Dr. Chamberlain collected and then studied cycads from around the world. The cycads became part of our collection around 1920.

Lebronnecia kokioides
Lebronnecia kokioides is a monotypic plant. This means that this species is the only representative of the genus Lebronnecia. Lebronnecia kokioides was just discovered in 1963 by Marie-Helen Sachet in the private herbarium of a local planter M. Lebronnec. It is a rare species of the Malvaceae (hibiscus) family. It is found in one small area of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. The number of trees is so small the government created a decree in 1996 that legally protects this plant.


 Copyright © 1997, 1998, 2004 Department of Plant Biology, UIUC