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Greenhouse plan

Greenhouses


Information boards are placed to the left and right of the entrance to the glasshouse complex.

Our visitors have access to approx. 4,500 m² of our glasshouse complex. There are three large greenhouses arranged in a row from west to east giving access to smaller specialist greenhouses. The first of the large greenhouses is home to drought tolerant plants from the Americas, whereas the last of the three is dedicated to the same plant group but native to the Old World. Both of them flanking the central tropicarium, a greenhouse dedicated to plants from the tropics, with its 21 m (69 ft) high glass dome.

The first greenhouse to the right of the entrance is the orchid house, home to a great variety of over 2000 orchid species cultivated in the Botanical Garden. Next in line is the greenhouse dedicated to economic plants of the tropics, followed by the Victoria house, which has a hot and humid climate in summer and houses the temperate plants in winter. The aquatic plants greenhouse with its 15 aquariums comes next, followed by two greenhouses with succulents, the last one of which is dedicated to large cacti.

Facing north, immediately to the left of the entrance, there is a temperate house displaying numerous ornamental plants in summer and further back a heated greenhouse with epiphytic ferns. Also on the left, is the greenhouse featuring Tree Ferns, Begonias and Gesneriads, followed by the house of the ancient Cycads. In the last greenhouse to the left Bromeliads, Zingiberaceae and Araceae have found their home.

Certain plants are marked with small red triangular numbered plaques. These indicate an audio location. Entering the appropriate number on your mobile audio equipment will start the playback informing you about that particular plant (in German or English).

Large cactus house (hall A)

The tour of the greenhouses starts in this airy Hall dedicated to the drought tolerant plants of the New World. Gneiss and sand form the typical desert or semi-desert landscape of the Americas. Particularly remarkable are the globular and the columnar cacti as well as the mighty Agaves. We have limited the species selection to just one continent in this hall. Only at the edges did we make an exception allowing plants like the magnificent Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) which is indigenous to South Africa.


Succulents at the entrance to the glasshouse complex

Plants inhabiting environments such as deserts, semi-deserts, craggy rock faces and dry grasslands with very little precipitation are known as xerophytes. They have developed different techniques to survive long dry spells. Some cover their leaves with a tough and leathery skin to minimise water loss. Others store water from short rainy seasons in their fleshy plant tissue and, therefore, are known as succulents. Water is also stored in roots, stems or leaves. Succulent geophytes, which have underground storage organs, are rare whereas succulents storing water in their stems and leaves are more common. There are succulents storing precious moisture only in their thick bulbous stems or bases, whereas others use their entire shoots as well as the main and side branches as their water reservoir.

Orchids (house 1)

Access to the orchid house is to the south of Hall A housing the Large Cacti. Orchids are prevalent here, as well as other plants thriving in warm and humid climates.


Vanda orchid near the entrance to the lovingly maintained tropical paradise.

The many different flowering plants can only give a small glimpse of the abundance and diversity of tropical shrubs and herbs.

Waterfall in the orchid house


Up to 40 yellow-bellied and red-eared terrapins watching the visitors go by.

Soaring large tree trunks next to the central small water basin provide support for various air plants (epiphytes). Behind these, large Heliconias, which are related to the banana, flower almost all year long. Tropical plants from a variety of families thrive in the beds at the sides, coming into flower during different times of the season.

The jungle-like atmosphere is enhanced further by small tropical poison-dart frogs (Dendrobates auratus, Epipedobates tricolor) and their loud cricket-like chirping noise. However loud the noise, the frogs are very hard to detect.

Not all orchids need high temperatures to flourish. However, the most magnificent and precious among them come from such climates. Due to their exclusivity and great commercial value, many orchids have become almost extinct in their natural habitats. They have all been put on the endangered species list and their trade is regulated by law.


Orchids in their screened off micro-habitat.

Orchids have a remarkable survival strategy. In most of the orchid families, the pollen is concentrated in a pollen packet (pollinium), whereas the pollen of other plants usually occurs as pollen dust. This is why the plant produces very large numbers of seeds after successful pollination. Over one million seeds per seed capsule have been recorded. The seeds are like dust particles and lack an endosperm, which makes them very light and able to float away like dust.
When the orchid seed encounters the appropriate fungus, it will enter into a symbiotic relationship. Having absorbed parts of the fungus hyphae, the seed begins to germinate. Usually, the orchid forms a lasting relationship with the fungus. While the fungus provides the orchid with various minerals, the orchid reciprocates with some surplus carbohydrates. In our greenhouses, the orchids thrive without their respective symbiotic fungi. Only a minute fraction of all the seeds released will germinate, as the chance for a seed to meet an appropriate fungus during its short lifespan is very small.

Palm house (hall B)

In the palm house, slender palm trees overgrown by lush green Araceae set the stage for this realistic example of a tropical jungle. With only a few flowering plants but a great diversity in the plants' shapes and sizes, the palm house invites you to linger a while. Its pleasant microclimate combined with the tall vegetation leave the powerful impression of a tropical rain forest.


The stylised form of the palm house is reflected in our logo.

Palm trees are characteristic of tropical rain forests. Their slender soaring trunks emphasise the lofty heights of the greenhouse. Compared to other trees, palms do not grow in diameter and reach their final circumference early in their lives. They will only increase in height. Their flowers are mostly plain and small and most of them are pollinated by the wind. However, the shapes of their often huge palm fronds vary greatly. From almost circular, fan-like leaves to pinnate fronds many meters long - the variety of palm leaf shapes is almost endless. The fruit of many palm trees are used by man, for example coconuts or dates. The largest seed of the plant kingdom belongs to the Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) and weighs up to 18 kg. The leaves and stalks of many palm species provide fibres utilised predominantly by the natives.

Tropical economic plants (house 2)

The second greenhouse on the south side is defined by its tropical diversity expressed in both the well-known as well as the little-known plants domesticated over the ages by men in different continents. The plants predominant in the two main planting areas are tall, tree-like plantation cultivated banana, coco and papaya plants. In the elevated beds on the side low shrubs, perennials and herbs of varied origin and use have been planted.

Today, it would be hard to imagine life without some of the tropical plants we have domesticated. Modern ways of transport have brought exotic fruit to our doorstep that we would normally not be able to cultivate in our climate. They have become as familiar as any local produce. However, have you ever wondered what a coco tree looks like, or a pineapple plant, how sugar cane grows, where the name peanut comes from, is vanilla a plant at all? You will find answers to all these and many other questions in the Economic Plants greenhouse. In addition to the food and spice plants, you will also find there some timber trees, fibre plants and plants used for dyeing, such as mahogany, cotton and the Annatto shrub producing a red seed used for colouring.

The Victoria house (house 3)

The Victoria House is temporarily closed.

This greenhouse with its remarkable construction follows on to the south of the large palm house.

During wintertime, its drained water basin is used to accommodate coldhouse plants from various continents.

On warm summer days, however, the visitor walks into the quite oppressive heat and humidity typical of the lowland tropics. Then, surrounded by a multitude of flowering climbers, the water basin is filled with tropical water lilies gracefully displaying their splendour.


Sown in February, the Victoria water lily with its giant floating leaves will flower at the height of summer. Its circular leaves can grow up to two metres in diameter. They float flat on the water surface, with upturned edges and are supported by a strong, prickly, web-like structure of air-filled ribs. One leaf can easily support a small child sitting on it.


Some species open their flowers only in the evening and stay open until early in the morning.

Starting in July, the lotus flowers rise high above the waterline, displaying their shield-shaped leaves on long stems near the balustrade. Unlike the Victoria whose seeds need to be newly planted every year, it is the rhizomes, the "roots" of the lotus flower that are overwintered. They remain in their planters and will sprout in spring soon after being returned to the water.

Aquatic plants (house 4)

This greenhouse is accessed from the southeast of the palm house. Its temperature and humidity are similar to the Victoria house with its summer climate. To the right, underwater aquatic plants are on display, whereas to the left you will encounter aquatic and bog plants rising above the water line.


It is here that you will find the live tropical butterflies exhibition in the winter. Butterflies love sunshine and are then particularly active.


Large bog plants in the middle; various beds with bog plants to the right; 15 aquariums to the left.

Both the middle basins are reserved for large bog plants. The last basin to the south - which is also home to numerous fish - is for mangroves, small trees that grow in the saline coastal habitats in the tropics.


Anna's (Osphronemus goramy) size is impressive. Careful! She might snap at your camera!

In addition to bog and aquatic plants, there are a number of plants that have adopted a free-floating habit. These are able to thrive in a habitat which firmly rooted plants are unable to populate. These plants have developed very different ways to stay afloat. Some of them have formed a spongy, air-filled tissue for buoyancy. The stalks of the water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes serves as float, which is equally true for the sometimes free-floating fern Ceratopteris. In case of Neptunia oleracea, it is the shoot that was adapted for this purpose. The Ludwigia helminthorrhiza uses its air-filled roots for buoyancy. The leaf surface of some other free-floating plants is tightly covered with velvety hairs making the leaves highly hydrophobic. The genera Azolla and Salvinia as well as the water cabbage Pistia stratiotes are typical examples.

Carnivorous plants

Animals feeding on plants - that's not particularly remarkable. - Plants feeding on animals, however, - now, that's interesting. Carnivorous plants do not kill to survive - no, they just do it to improve their standard of living. Their prey has to be enticed to approach them. To achieve this, quite a number of species have dressed up for the occasion and have put on some beguiling perfume to attract their victims. Once caught, the carnivores apply various tricks to prevent their prey from escaping.


Carnivores in their screened off bed

Carnivores are plants that derive their nutrients from the tissue of small animals they catch. Well-equipped carnivores produce their own digestive juices, others get help from bacteria. The victims of the (South African) Roridula species are sucked dry by Pameridea bugs and spiders which have managed to outwit the carnivores' trap mechanisms. Some of the sticky droppings of these insects are deposited on the plant's leaves and most probably used as fertiliser by the plant. Contrary to general understanding, the Roridula species should nevertheless be regarded carnivorous.

More carnivorous plants are on display in the small greenhouses and basins of the Ecology and Genetics Section in the outdoor garden area.

Africa and Madagascar house (hall C)

Entering the last of the three large Halls, you are immediately reminded of Hall A and its draught tolerant vegetation. In terms of shape and habitat requirements, there are indeed similarities there. Succulents storing water in their stems and leaves and well adapted to arid climates grow here as well. However, they belong to very different families than the xerophytes of the New World in Hall A. Most of the succulents on display in this Hall belong to the cactoid Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), but there are also aloes with fleshy leaves native to Africa and Madagascar.


Euphorbias and aloes

The arid regions of Madagascar, Socotra and the Mascarene Islands as well as the southern Arabian Peninsula are home to the Aloe genera comprising approx. 300 species. Some herbaceous, distinctly succulent species are commonly found in our homes as ornamental pot plants. However, this genus also includes shrubby and even tree-like growing habits. When dried, the yellowish liquid found inside the leaves of some Aloe species forms a bitter resin that has been used in herbal medicine since antiquity. Among other treatments, this drug was used as a mild purgative. Aloe was also used as an embalming agent in the Orient. In Europe, the fresh juice of its succulent leaves has been used for soothing wounds and for wound healing. Today, Aloe extract with its antibacterial properties is used in skin care products. Best known species for its medicinal properties is Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis), which is common from the Mediterranean Basin right through to the south of the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. The plant was introduced in the New World by the Spaniards, who started cultivating it in large plantations for its medicinal resin as early as 1650.

Desert plants (house 5)

Since most of the drought tolerant plants in our collection are native to Africa, this house is also called Africa house. Behind glass, on the west side of the greenhouse, is our botanical treasure trove containing the Welwitschia mirabilis, a living fossil, pebble plants (Lithops) and rare Aloe species, amongst others.


Larger plants are placed in the middle, cacti on the left and other succulents on the right.

Larger succulents common in South Africa are planted in the middle of the planting area. The screened planting bed to the east is reserved for succulents from the New World, particularly small cacti. Note the similarities of the succulents: Although they developed independently on different continents, they have a lot in common. This is due to the daunting conditions of their habitats and a severe lack of water.

Plants populate the whole world and thrive in almost all climates. They cope with severe cold or heat, constantly wet conditions and extreme changes in humidity. Even the arid regions of the world, through their lack of water normally hostile to vegetation, have been conquered by some remarkable plant life forms. Plant life that has adapted to drought conditions looks very much alike on any continent. The independent development of similar traits (e.g. succulence) in relation to similar external conditions (e.g. aridity) in very different lineages is called convergence. A very well known example is the cacti plant family. In most species, the leaves are greatly or entirely reduced and their green thickly stems have evolved to photosynthesise. In America, the typical cacti growing habit has developed in the Cactaceae family and in Africa such shapes have even become apparent in two systematically very different families: the Euphorbiaceae (the cactoid Spurge family) and the Asclepiadaceae (the milkweed family).

Mexico house (house 6)

The last greenhouse on the south side is the Mexico house. It is amazing how many different species can thrive in such a small space: cacti and other succulents as well as drought tolerant plants from America belong to our collection giving you an impression of the flora and the arid climate conditions of their home countries.

On entering the greenhouse, the first thing you will notice are the tall columnar and globular cacti (Cactaceae) dominating the view. The characteristic eye-catching silhouettes of the Agaves (Agavaceae) will be familiar, too. You have to look closely to notice the other low or bolster-like growing cacti and plant forms of other families. There are the orpine family (Crassulaceae), the pepper family (Piperaceae) and the bromeliads (Bromeliaceae).

The best known flowering plants adapted to arid conditions are the cacti. The name "cactus" has become the epitome of all prickly, succulent plant forms and is incorrectly used for thorny succulents of completely different plant families bearing only a physiognomic resemblance to cacti. Most cacti have spines. These appear on special cushion-like structures known as areoles. They are greyish or brownish in colour, often white-woolly or hairy. They are extremely short or transformed side shoots. The nodes of these reduced side shoots develop into spines, bristles or stiff hair-like prickles instead of leaves. Like the spines, side shoots and flowers also arise from areoles. The sizeable and often brightly coloured flowers of the cacti are usually bisexual. They have numerous radially symmetrical sepals, a large number of stamens and an inferior ovary with a branched style. The outer sepals are green with a smooth transition to the inner white, yellow, orange, red or purple coloured petals.

Bromeliads and aroids (house 8)

The north-easternmost of the six greenhouses branching off the palm house is dedicated almost exclusively to bromeliads native to America, Araceae and the herbaceous Marantaceae conspicuous through their distinctive colouring of their leaves. Although Araceae are found around the word, we have concentrated on the tropical species in our collection. The murmuring of a brooklet adds a special note to this warm and humid tropical habitat. Behind glass at the back of the greenhouse, particularly rare bromeliads are on display.

Most bromeliads are epiphytes using other plants as their hosts but are non-parasitical. They rather derive their nutrients from their environment. Almost all of them have developed ways to collect and conserve water or absorb humidity from the air. Like all typical plants of this family, they are monocotyledons or monocots. Accompanying them are the Araceae with their often large foliage. Their flowers are borne on a thickened inflorescence, a spadix, which is surrounded by a bract. The individual flowers are very small and sit on the fleshy axis of the leaf. Musaceae are also large-leaved, bearing flowers in very distinctive colours. In contrast, the Marantaceae adorn themselves mainly with a striking variety of leaf zoning.

Cycads (house 9)

This part of the glasshouse complex that is home to our collection of cycads has changed very little since its inception. The lowered path leading through a grotto-like opening at the back is lined with Cycads, the ancient, primordial seed plants, thriving in their large containers. In the beginning, only tree ferns were growing in this greenhouse. However, these were removed to greenhouse number 10 in the 1950ies when almost all tree ferns had been annihilated by disease.

One can rightly call Cycads living fossils. Their German name "Palmfarne" (lit. "palm ferns"), however, is quite misleading. They are neither ferns nor palm trees, which they sometimes only resemble in growing, habit and leaf shape. They are, moreover, a group of plants distantly related to coniferous shrubs and trees. They are, however, easily distinguished by their huge palm-like fronds. Cycad fossil records date as far back as the Carboniferous period. During the Cretaceous period, over 65 million years ago, this group of plants was very common and diverse. Today, the remaining 10 genera with approx. 100 species are only found in the tropics and sub-tropics of both hemispheres. Our collection in Munich with approx. 30 species includes some very old plants and could be considered almost unique.

Tree ferns (house 10)
and staghorn ferns pavilion (house 12)

Sometimes visitors consider this greenhouse not very attractive, believing that without flowers ferns are not much to look at. It is true, of course, that ferns do not produce flowers in the usual sense. The plant group of ferns does, however, have features as attractive as blooms. Ferns are quite different from other plants. For instance, they reproduce via (single-celled) spores instead of seeds. They could be considered leading an "alternative" way of life. However, adjectives like archaic or conservative would be more appropriate. Ferns obviously do not attract attention through their colourful blooms, although they do have a certain beauty. Their shoots unfurl into lavish to filigree and elegant structures. Although ferns are also found in cold, high mountainous regions and will not even shun habitats with prolonged dry periods, they prefer a consistently warm to cool climate without any prolonged dry periods. The vast majority is not hardy and requires greenhouse cultivation.

In the somewhat cooler greenhouse number 10 and in the warmer greenhouse number 12, five very different groups of fern allies are constantly on display: the whisk ferns (Psilotales), the clubmosses (Lycopodiales), the spikemosses, the horsetails (Equisetopsida) and the true ferns.


Staghorn fern pavilion

Temperate house (house 11)

Like the Victoria house, this greenhouse is also subject to noticeable seasonal changes. In winter, numerous container plants from warmer climates find refuge here and start flowering around Christmas. This first flower display is followed by an ever-increasing abundance of blooms. In summer, they are replaced by many pot plants, like the tuberous begonias or fuchsias. These exotic plants have taken to our gardens and nowadays hardly a gardener can imagine his gardens without them.


Flowering Azaleas and Camellias are a pleasure to look at in winter.

Plants from regions with a Mediterranean climate do not require warm temperatures in winter. However, their main growing period falls into that season and to support them they need a frost-free environment and enough water. They are native to South Africa, central Chile, California, and the Mediterranean Basin as well as to the forests and savannas with sclerophyllous communities of East Australia and Tasmania. In the summer, they prefer to be outdoors and their place will be taken by some popular pot plants. New as well as established varieties of fiery tuberous begonias, elegant fuchsias, geraniums boasting aromatic leaves and the bright yellow slipper flower convert this greenhouse into a glorious summer festival of blooms. At dusk, the group of magnificent Angel's Trumpets in the central planting area releases its fascinating perfume.