The Conservatory, originally called the Plant Museum, was built in 1907. It is representative of the Victorian architectural style typical in greenhouse construction in the late 1890s. With controlled heat and humidity, it provides a year-round growing space for plant material which can't survive outdoors in the Kansas climate.
In 1978, the conservatory was relocated on Denison Avenue west of the Dairy Barn to allow for the construction of Bluemont Hall. At that time, the iron frame and curved glass roof were set on a new foundation of native Kansas limestone, and interior pathways were installed to accommodate large groups of visitors.
Relocating the Conservatory to its present site was one of the first steps in developing what has become the Kansas State University Gardens, and the Conservatory remains an important focal point of the extensive garden and landscape plantings. The collections of plants within the Conservatory serve as an educational resource for both the university and the community.
The Conservatory is currently in need of both structure and heating/cooling system renovation. The current cost estimate of this vital renovation is in excess of $250,000.
Regional divisions within the Conservatory
Approximately 300 species of plants are grown in the Conservatory's three separate sections, with each section representing one distinct ecological region. The west section is devoted to desert plants, the central section is devoted to tropical plants, and east section is devoted to semi-tropical plants.
The most popular plant in the Conservatory is the dwarf banana (Musa acuminata). When the Conservatory was originally constructed, a banana plant was brought from Central America. The banana plant that you see in the Conservatory today is a descendant of the one acquired over 90 years ago. Every year, there is a "banana harvest," when the stalk of fruit is picked and allowed to ripen in a room with a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. After the fruit is harvested, the adult tree dies and is replaced by a new offshoot growing at its base.