Where: 615 Garfield St., Oak Park, IL (708) 725-2400. Take the CTA Blue Line to the Oak Park stop. Walk back toward the East Avenue exit. The Conservatory is to the right of the exit. The Blue line travels through Austin and Garfield Park so be aware of your surroundings.
Hours: Open Tuesday – Sunday: 10am-4pm. (Closed Mondays)
Discovery Garden Hours: Open 7 days a week 10am-Dusk
Enter through the main doors of the Conservatory Tue-Sun 10am-4pm. After the Conservatory is closed, enter through the Discovery Garden gate on the corner of Garfield and East Avenue (Mondays 10am-dusk & Tue-Sun 4pm-dusk). Learn more about the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden.
Holiday Hours: Open School Holiday Mondays (Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day and Columbus Day.
The Conservatory and Discovery Garden are closed: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day (closes 1pm Christmas Eve.Open Christmas Eve).
Admission is free. Suggested donation $5.
- Tour the Display Rooms. More info below.
- Check out Exploration Station the free children’s program runs September – May. It is open every Saturday morning 10:30 am – 12:30 pm, Sunday, 1:30 – 3:30 pm. It is also open from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm on the Monday school holidays for Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Presidents’ Day. Docents help children and others learn through interactive displays and games in the showrooms. New topics every month. Topics listed below.
- Take a Guided tours led by trained docents. Tours are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children under 12. The minimum fee for a group tour is $20. Educational tours are free for Oak Park district schools and $1 per child for all other schools. To schedule a tour, visit the Friends of Oak Park Conservatory website.
Flourishing in the Fern Room is one of the most ancient plant families, the Ferns, and the most modern plant family, the Orchids. They are joined by other exotic plant families and colorful seasonal flower displays. Large Australian tree ferns tower over the central walkway, surrounded by other fern species from the tropic and sub-tropic areas of the world. The highly specialized flower structure of the Orchids displays the end product of thousands of years of evolution. Flowers are attractively blotched, striped, and colored for the singular purpose of attracting a pollinator. A Ponderosa Lemon tree, Sea-Grape tree and a Rose Apple tree create a leafy canopy for the orchids and ferns. On the southern wall, Birds of Paradise, begonias and Kafir lilies can be found.
Humidity is high, light is filtered, and the air is filled with sounds of falling water and tropical birds. Cross over a central pond filled with Koi, goldfish, and turtles. Look around and experience three levels of vegetation. Large fig trees provide the upper canopy with fruit-bearing banana and papaya trees that reach up to the sun. A giant anthurium, a white bird of paradise and dracaenas inhabit the second story while ferns, pilea, spider plants, and peperomia cover the ground. Find the large-leaved aroid, Monstera deliciosa, climbing through the limbs of the Fiddle-leaf Fig tree. Cycads, a plant species older than the dinosaurs, also flourish in this room along with members of the Palm family, the Lady, Fishtail and Fan palm. A room lush in sounds, textures, shapes and shadows; a trip through the tropics in Oak Park.
The desert environment, unfamiliar to the Midwest, provides a counterpoint to the humidity of the Tropic room. Extremely dry air and wide temperature shifts push plant adaptation to its limits. Search out plants whose leaves have evolved into thorns and plants whose thick green stems carry out photosynthesis. The exhibits of three main groups of cacti—cereus, optunia and pereskia—fascinate children and adults alike. The distinctive collection of desert plants also features a fine display of other succulents including haworthia, kalanchoe, gasteria, crassula and succulent euphorbias. Check out the Agaves or “Century Plants” which grow for 25 to 30 years before sending up their tall flower stalk. Look for the secluded oasis pond on the edge of the desert surrounded by olive, fig, date palm, bay, and pomegranate. And, meet the plants that eat insects. Visit the Curiosity Corner with its Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants and Sun Dews.
Here are the topics for September 2016 – May 2017:
September: Habitat : Prairie The prairie was once the largest ecosystem in North America, stretching westward from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and southward from Saskatchewan to Texas. The plains of tall grass support enormous varieties of plants and animals. Come and learn about the once majestic prairie and what makes it a special ecosystem worth preserving.
October: Seasonal Seeds Having spent the summer growing in the sun, plants are getting ready for the cold of winter. Plants are producing seeds and preparing the next generation to sprout comes spring. From the large to the tiny, smooth to spiky, seeds are the promise that spring will return. Let’s take a look at seeds.
November: Roots While leaves and flowers are the main attraction of any plants, roots are the backbone of them all. Not only do roots provide the support, they also provide the nutrients necessary for plant growth—some are even edible, making them the most valuable food commodity. We’ll dig for the dirt on roots.
December: Wintergreen Leaves are gone from deciduous plants this time of year yet there is an abundance of green life out there. We’ll be looking at conifers and other plants that bring green life into our homes during the cold winter.
January: Staying Alive Extreme weather is hard on every living thing. How do plants and animals survive and thrive in the worst of weather? We’ll take a look at adaptations that make it possible for these plants and animals to survive whatever Mother Nature throws their way.
February: Living In Darkness Winter is long and dark for most life above ground, but while we look forward to the bright light of spring, there is life in the darkness. Plants and animals have long adapted to this nocturnal life, let us turn on the light and see what’s living in the dark.
March: Insects The most abundant life form on earth, these creepy crawlies have been scorned by all yet without them life is not possible. We’ll examine why something so small can be so important.
April: Soil It’s right under our feet, but have you stopped to think what, if anything, lives under there? What is soil, where does it come from and why should we care what we are stepping on? Let’s take a look.
May: Life of Trees Many of us look at trees and see nothing but leaves, but a tree is its own ecosystem providing food and shelter for many other living plants and animals. We’ll take a closer look at a tree and its many uses.
History of the Oak Park Conservatory
The Conservatory began as a community effort to provide a place to house exotic plants that residents collected during their travels abroad. The present Edwardian-style glass structure, built in 1929, houses a botanical collection of more than 3,000 plants, some of which date back to the Conservatory’s founding.
Over the years the building fell into neglect. In 1970, when plans were made to raze it, a group of concerned citizens led a successful drive to preserve, and eventually enhance, this unique resource. In June of 2000 the Conservatory Center was opened to provide expanded space and facilities for educational programming, day-to-day operations and public events. The Conservatory was named to the National Register of Historic Places in March 2005. In 2011, the Rubinstein Memorial Garden was opened. This new garden space is framed by a pergola, enhanced by a water feature and serves as a quiet space for reflection.
The conservatory was built by Foley Greenhouse Manufacturing in 1929. The Greenhouse Original Structure was designated an Oak Park Historical Landmark in 2004.