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Tropical Collection

The plantings within the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory are designed to showcase plant species found in each of the lowland tropical rainforests around the world and also include cultivated varieties chosen for their exceptional form or color. Currently, the Gardens’ tropical collections contain nearly 3,500 taxa representing over 2,400 species from 656 genera and over 120 families. The tropical collections have particularly strong representation from Central and South America. Asian tropicals are also well represented.


The Orchid collection has well over 3,000 accessions representing more than 1,000 species from over 200 genera. The oldest orchid in the Gardens’ collection is an Asian Coelogyne speciosa, which has been at the institution since 1967.


Bromeliads are members of a large family of plants native to tropical and semi-tropical areas of the western hemisphere. Often grown as houseplants, they are admired for their colorful, long-lasting flowers as well as their vase-shaped foliage. We have 371 species representing 35 genera.


The plant family Arecaceae (sometimes referred to as Palmae) is a diverse and ancient family with 2,500 species in 200 genera confined almost exclusively to the tropics of the world. Palms are an essential part of any tropical collection and Denver Botanic Gardens is no exception. Some palms of the collection are important in that they represent rarity either in nature (Neovitchia storckii) or commerce (Pinanga sp. and Carpentaria acuminata) and are valuable from a conservation standpoint.


Araceae is a large and diverse family containing 2000 species in 100 genera. However, aroids (the common term for the family) are not solely confined to the tropics with less than 10 percent of the family inhabiting temperate zones of the world. The Gardens possess a moderately large and diverse collection of tropical aroids with 115 species from 22 genera. The diversity of growth habits amongst aroids at the Gardens includes epiphytes (Anthurium scandens ssp. pusillum) terrestrial (Alocasia sp., Colocasia sp., etc) aquatic (Lasia spinosa, Pista sp.) and vines (Philodendron sp).


The gingers (common term for plants of the Zingiberaceae family) are related to the palms and aroids, all being monocots. However, the geography of gingers unlike that of the palms and aroids is isolated almost entirely to tropical Southern and Southeast Asia. China alone contains 216 named species and of those 141 are endemic. The collection of plants in the Zingiberaceae family at the Gardens is of moderate size, representing 29 species in 10 Genera. The collection at the Gardens has been assembled to represent the diversity within the gingers to include such forms as basal flowering, apical flowering, rhizomatous, tuber forming, mat forming, and others.


The plant family Begoniaceae is made up of three genera with the genus Begonia holding nearly all of the species of the family with an estimated 1,000 species. Of the 1,000 species in the genus Begonia, the Gardens possess 24 with nearly the same number of hybrids.


Fern is a term to refer to any plant in the division Polypodiophyta made up of nearly 30 families with 300 genera containing 12,000 species. However, at Denver Botanic Gardens, like many other institutions, ferns are grouped with other pteridophytes commonly referred to as fern allies. Fern allies include the lycopods, selaginellas, equisetums and psilotums. Ferns and their allies were the dominant flora 200,000,000 years ago creating lush forests which would later become the vast coal resources we utilize to power much of our modern society. Today ferns inhabit nearly all climates of the world yet it is the tropics that possess the majority of fern species. The Gardens’ tropical fern collection including allies number 49 species in 22 genera among 13 families.


Gesneriads are a family of mostly tropical plants (both Old and New World) that are familiar to many houseplant aficionados. Gloxinias, African Violets, and Streptocarpus are some of the more familiar and showy members of this family. There are roughly 80 genera in the Gesneriaceae family of which the Gardens has 18.


Like Gesneriaceae, the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae) has many plants that bloom nearly all year long.