Q– What is the oldest part of the building?

A– The lunette or peacock window over the main entry is the only original wood and glass piece remaining from 1912 after two renovations. It was restored in 2000.

Q– What is the oldest plant in the Conservatory?

A– The oldest plants on display now are probably the Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) and the Jade Tree (Crassula argentea). Both are over 75 years old.

Q– What is White Wash?

A– It is a chalky paint sprayed on the glass in early summer to protect the plants from excessive sun and heat. In the fall the white wash is removed when days become shorter and darker.

Q– How do you control the temperature and humidity?

A– The Conservatory heating system is computer controlled. Two natural gas fired boilers heat water and valves open allowing hot water into pipes located below the display benches. The overhead and underbench vents are also computer controlled to regulate temperature and humidity. There is a sensing device in each house.

Q– Who is the statue out front?

A– William Henry Seward (1801-1872) was the US Secretary of State under President Lincoln. He negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars, about 2 cents per acre. This became known as “Seward’s Folly”.

Q– Do you sell any plants?

A– The FOC Gift Shop has a variety of plants for sale. We also have two large plant sales per year, on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend in May and a Saturday in mid-September.

Q– What happened to that huge cactus that was in the Cactus House?

A– The two large Opuntias that filled half the center bed were removed in 2010 to facilitate emergency repairs to the buiding overhead. Workers had to install scaffolding inside the room to work safely. We have cuttings from both opuntias in pots now, and display them from time to time.

Q– Do you have carnivorous plants?

A– Yes, they are usually found in the boggy planters flanking the pool in the Fern House. Our collection includes Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, Pitcher Plants and more.

Q– Are the fruits on the Fishtail Palm edible?

A– They are not palatable to humans, but are enjoyed by birds and monkeys in the wild.

Q– Where do your plants come from?

A– We grow plants in our production greenhouse space from seeds, cuttings and divisions. We accept selected donated plants from the public. We are a certified US Fish and Wildlife Plant Rescue Center, accepting plants confiscated by US Customs when they are illegally imported.

Q– Who are those cats?

A– Frank, the mitted sealpoint, and Ivan the black and white both were feral cats who chose to live here long into old age. Both passed away recently. Ivan von Katzen lives on as Conservatory Spokes Cat on Facebook. He’d love to be your friend and keep you up to date on what’s happening around here. You can also check out their web pages on
Ivan’s Page  Frank’s Page

Q– How many people work here?

A– There are 4.5 Seattle Park Department gardeners (one works summer only). The Friends of the Conservatory has two paid staff and also provides many volunteers to help with all kinds of tasks.
Learn more about volunteering

Q– Where does the donation money go?

A– Currently it goes into a special fund we can use to purchase plants or to enhance our displays.