The Enlightened Nerd: Bloedel Floral Conservatory

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The Enlightened Nerd is a column designed to enlighten the inner nerd in all of us through local whimsical and intellectual events, people, and places. Know a nerdy person, event, place, or thing in Vancouver? Send it in here or tweet it to @karolinakay_ (#theenlightenednerd)

Bloedel Floral Conservatory / Photo by Philip Moussavi

With more than 120 free-flying species of birds and 500 exotic plants and flowers, Bloedel Floral Conservatory can turn anyone into a bird nerd and floral fan.

Bloedel Floral Conservatory exists at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park in South Cambie and is a 25-minute walk from VanDusen Botanical Gardens. When the Bloedel Floral Conservatory first opened in 1969 it was the second largest domed conservatory in the world!

I arrived at the bottom of Queen Elizabeth Park on a sunny Sunday that accentuated the greenness of the area, the grass adorned with dandelions and daisies.

It’s about a 15-minute walk up the hill to Bloedel Floral Conservatory for those who arrive by bus. The gorgeous view of the Lower Mainland and beautiful gardens at the top make it worth it, however. There were lots of tourists, and there stood the giant verdant dome that is Bloedel. Through its triodetic glass windows I could see hints of green.

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Inside, it was a vibrant, lush paradise. The temperature is lightly humid, channeling a tropical climate. It costs $6.50 for an adult to enter and they have laminated self-guided tours you can follow, as well as a scavenger hunt for kids (or adults, if you’re like me.) The dome is small and the tour can be finished within 30-45 minutes, at a very leisurely pace.

The conservatory is split up into three simulated habitats: tropical rainforest, sub-tropical rain forest, and desert climate zone.

Bloedel Floral Conservatory / Photo by Philip Moussavi

In the tropical rainforest habitat you’ll see different kids of fig trees (such as the Fiddle Leaf Fig, Ficus Lyrata, or Benjamin Fig, Ficus benjamina). As well, they have a suspended bridge over a small pond with Japanese koi fish. You’ll meet Maria and Carmen, their resident green-winged macaws from the Amazon jungle, as well as their sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Malibu, native to Australia and New Guinea. There are massive palm trees (like the Brazilian Jelly Tree, Butia capitata), a Coffee Tree (Coffee arabica), and a Plantain Tree (Musa x paradisiaca).

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Along the tour you’ll see many tiny, adorable finches flittering around and landing on the path so you have to be mindful. We saw tiny creamsicle-coloured birds bathing under a fountain and moving around in frenzy, as well as larger birds at every turn, relaxing under umbrellas. The sun shines through the skylight windows onto every green plant and tiny bird.

In the desert climate, the humidity is kept lower and here beautiful tall cactuses, low succulents, stubby hairy cacti, and massive agave grow. The succulent arrangements here are far better looking than ones I’ve ever owned! They have a gangly Candelabra Cactus (Cereus peruvianus) and a massive blue-green Century Plant (Agave americana), which blooms every 12 years.

My first time visit to Bloedel Floral Conservatory and the top of Queen Elizabeth Park was bliss. I would recommend the little trip to anyone – families, friends, couples, locals, and tourists alike. Expand your understanding and appreciation of birds and plants with a slice of the tropics right here in Vancouver.

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Bloedel Floral Conservatory / Photo by Philip Moussavi