A CONNECTION TO NATURE
In addition to art, this Museum was founded with the mission of being a proponent for, and an interpreter of, nature. This mission is manifested in the Conservatory, which contains plants and animals from around the world.
The C. Fred Edwards Conservatory opened in 1996 and is West Virginia’s only plant conservatory. It features tropical and subtropical plants one might encounter closer to the Equator. Plants are selected for the collection based on three overlapping categories.
The Ethnobotanically Important plant category includes plants of agricultural or economic use. Examples include foods such as cashew, chocolate (cacao), bananas, citrus, sugarcane, and coffee. Other plants are grown for their fibers, waxes, or medical uses. This category also includes plants referenced in art and literature or religion and spirituality.
Plants with unique adaptations such as the tropical pitcher plant, which catches and digests prey in tubular traps at the ends of its leaves, fall into the Ecologically Interesting category. These plants are included in the Edwards collection for their ability to illustrate how plants cope with their environments and partner with other organisms for survival. These specimens help tell the story of life on Earth.
Fragrance adds another dimension to the Conservatory. Sensory plants such as orange jessamine, white ginger, and many orchids scent the air. Other Sensory plants are selected for their notable patterns, colors, forms, and textures which add visual diversity and interest. Many of our Ethnobotanically Important plants provide sensory experiences through tastings while Ecologically Interesting plants such as the sensitive plant, which folds its leaflets up when touched, can provide a tactile encounter.
Regular scouting and pruning are conducted to identify and remove pests before they become an infestation, and occasional insecticidal oil and soap treatments are employed too. However, beneficial predatory insects and mites play the biggest role in controlling plant pests such as mealybugs and aphids. This allows the Conservatory to function as an artificial ecosystem where plants, animals, and microbes live together to the benefit of one another.
There are two sculptures in the Conservatory. One is a site-specific glass sculpture titled “The Huntington Museum of Art Tower” by Dale Chihuly; the other is a more traditional bronze sculpture titled “Play Days” by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.
The plants and sculptures in the Conservatory can be viewed at any time during regular Museum hours. The Museum is a member of the American Orchid Society (AOS), the American Public Garden Association (APGA) and the West Virigina Nursery & Landscaping Association.
Josh Hamrick | Conservatory Director
Monarch Butterfly Project