The US Botanic Garden is the oldest operating botanic garden in the country. It is located right near the Congress building in Washington D.C. and is managed by the Architect of the Capitol. It is a popular tourist attraction and provides visitors with a lush green escape from all concrete of the monuments and museums in the National Mall.
The idea for a botanic garden in Washington D.C. first began in 1816 and was supported by the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences and the Washington Botanical Society. Four years later, then-president, James Monroe set aside some swampy land about 80 feet from the Capitol for the building of a “national greenhouse.”
During the next several years until 1926, the land was drained and the garden was built and expanded. The Columbian Institution collected trees, plants, and shrubs from all over the world. Many of these were from areas in the Pacific Ocean that were gathered during the expedition of the United States Exploring Expedition commissioned by Congress between 1838 and 1842.
The US Botanic Garden was officially established in 1820, however, it faced many hardships and financial woes during the next half century, and Congress decided to move the garden to the southwest side of the Capitol in 1933. Today the Botanic Garden has over 10,000 plant specimens, some of which date back to over 165 years ago.
The Botanic Garden has three main parts. First, you will find the historic conservator; the Lord & Burnham Greenhouse which has eight garden rooms under glass and over 28,000 sq. ft. of space. This is the most popular part of the garden and has different plant exhibits. Some of these include; jungle species, plants from Hawaii, rare and endangered plants, desert plants, medicinal plants, Garden primeval, and many others.
The second part of the botanic garden is Bartholdi Park which features the Bartholdi fountain and is located across Independence Avenue from the Conservatory. This park has many different plant themes, innovative designs, colors, and gardens and is designed to inspire and provide home gardeners.