Frankfurt botanical garden soothes with array of exotic plants
November 16, 2016
When the temperature starts to plunge, visiting a botanical garden could be the perfect antidote to the almost-winter blues.
In early November, on a day when the sky in Frankfurt, Germany, was a monochromatic drab, the city’s Palmengarten was a welcome refuge from winter’s pending arrival.
Since opening to the public in 1871, the Palmengarten has offered one of the world’s largest botanical displays of exotic plants from hard-to-reach, distant places.
Within the 50-acre green sanctuary in the heart of Frankfurt, one can view leafy palms, prickly cacti, carnivorous Venus flytraps and the sweet-smelling Stanhopea orchid.
My friend and I, along with my two kids, were amazed at how quickly the hustle and bustle of the city gave way to a peaceful oasis when we walked through the garden’s entry gate.
We stopped first in the Palm House, an impressive structure whose steel and glass construction was inspired by the buildings of the Paris World Fair.
It houses a lush tropical landscape teeming with palms, shrubs, ferns and flowers. Adding to the rainforest feel was a pond with koi; the steppingstones provided a way across — and heart palpitations for the 20 times my 5-year-old dashed back and forth across it.
For some reason — perhaps because our map was stuffed in a purse — we thought this was the only attraction: a palm house with a lovely but small garden outside.
After retrieving the map, we made it to the group of greenhouses that comprise the Tropicarium. We savored the warmth and quiet within, peering at the vegetation through glasses fogged up by the humidity.
The complex is divided into the humid tropics and the arid tropics, and further subdivided into fog deserts, cloud forests, mangrove swamps, lowland rainforests, thorn forests, deciduous dry forests and semidesert regions, among other habitats.
We almost spent the night in the mountain rain forest. Luckily for the rainbow lorikeets, which were already agitated by my kids’ high-pitched attempts to talk to them, we didn’t. At 4:40 p.m., as we were looking at the Arabica coffee plant, a worker, making the final rounds for the day, shooed us out, informing us that the Tropicarium had closed 40 minutes earlier.
As the sun set and garden lights lit our path, we wandered through the rose garden and an autumn-themed display in one of the Palm House exhibition galleries before we were chased out of there, too.
The lesson: It’s best to set aside a day if you want to take it all in at a leisurely pace. My kids loved it, and that was unexpected. And we didn’t even get to the rock or heather gardens or the subantarctic or blossom houses.
I had planned to return in the spring or summer, when the outdoor gardens are in bloom and special flower exhibitions and concerts are held.
But another winter visit to the Palmengarten may be in order.
From Nov. 24 to Dec. 26, Palmengarten holds its annual Christmas exhibition. Visitors also can see the garden illuminated with hundreds of lights at night from 5 to 8 p.m. from Dec. 10 to Jan. 22.
Located in downtown Frankfurt, not far from the Senckenberg Museum. For GPS devices, the address is: Siesmayerstrasse 63/Main Entrance; 60323 Frankfurt am Main.
Ticket booths and greenhouses: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily November through January; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily February through October.
Admission costs 7 euros (about $7.60) for adults; 2 euros for children 6 to 13. Family admission is 16 euros.
There are several kiosks and a nice cafe in the garden.