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bolz conservatory facts

Bolz Conservatory Facts


  • The tropical Bolz Conservatory opened its doors on November 1, 1991.
  • Approximately 1.5 million people have visited the Bolz Conservatory during the past 17 years.
  • The Conservatory was named for Adolph and Eugenie Mayer Bolz.
  • A generous donation by the Bolz family led the campaign to raise $4.6 million to build the Conservatory.
  • Private sources, including individuals, corporations, and foundations, raised 75 percent of the funds. The City of Madison Parks Division provided 25 percent of the project's cost.
  • Madison architect Stuart William Gallaher designed the Conservatory, built by J.H. Findorff Construction.


  • A striking glass pyramid, the structure measures 100 feet by 100 feet, and rises to 50 feet at the center peak.
  • A 20-foot high waterfall with rock outcrops drops to a flowing stream and peaceful pool.
  • The temperature in the Conservatory is between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
  • There are 220 fogging nozzles that keep the relative humidity above 60-percent.
  • Plants are watered daily by hand with reverse osmosis water, a type of purified water.
  • A layer of soil 18 inches thick sits on top of 12 feet of sand, creating an excellent drainage system.
  • A computer linked to an outside weather station controls heat, humidification, exhaust fans, and window vents.
  • Diseases and insect pests are controlled naturally with integrated pest management, using a variety of methods including beneficial insects. Herbicides and traditional insecticides are not used in the Conservatory.

Plants of Paradise

  • The Conservatory houses a collection of more than 650 plants representing more than 80 plant families and 475 species and cultivars from tropical and sub-tropical environments around the world.
  • The Orchid Aerie display area, inside the Conservatory, features an ever-changing exhibit of
  • Olbrich's collection of orchids, bromeliads, and ferns.
  • Visitors can also see the plants on which some of their food grows, including cacao, vanilla, coffee, bananas, and papayas.
  • Most of the Conservatory plants were purchased from Florida. Others are from botanical gardens and individuals.
  • Olbrich's Conservatory Curator, John Wirth, has collected rare orchids and other plants on trips to Central and South America. Responsible collecting methods are always employed to assure the continued health of plants in the wild.
  • The Bolz Conservatory grows and preserves many plants considered endangered in the wild.
  • Special collections include carnivorous plants, orchids and other epiphytes (plants that grow high in the trees), and aroids (understory plants).

Finned and Feathered Friends

  • Free-flying birds enjoy the natural habitat of the Conservatory. Species include canaries, orange-cheeked waxbills, diamond doves, and common and button quail.
  • The quail contribute to the Conservatory's Integrated Pest Management system by eating some of the 'bad bugs.'
  • The fish are goldfish and Japanese koi. On average, the colorful koi live 30 to 60 years and grow two to three feet long.
  • An ultraviolet sterilizer helps control algae in the pond and maintains a healthy environment for the goldfish and koi without the use of chemicals.
  • Geckos (a small lizard) and toads also live in the Conservatory and help to control insect pests. Visitors seldom see these small animals.


  • Education is a primary goal of the Conservatory.
  • Special exhibits throughout the year explain relationships between people, animals, and plants of the rainforests. Others highlight plant families or teach environmental awareness.
  • In the Exploration Station, children learn about the environment through hands-on activities.

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Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719