U.S. Botanic Garden - Washington, DC's Living Plant Museum

The National Garden Has Operated Since 1850

Tourists at the botanic gardens, Washington DC, United States, USA
••• Elan Fleisher / LOOK-foto/ Getty Images

The U.S. Botanic Garden, or USBG, established by Congress in 1820, is a living plant museum on the National Mall. The Conservatory reopened in December 2001 after a four-year renovation, showcasing an impressive state-of-the-art indoor garden with approximately 4,000 seasonal, tropical and subtropical plants.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is administered by the Architect of the Capitol and offers special exhibits and educational programs throughout the year.

Also, a part of the USBG, Bartholdi Park is located across the street from the conservatory. This beautifully landscaped flower garden has as its centerpiece, a classical style fountain that was created by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who also designed the Statue of Liberty.

History of the Botanic Garden

In 1816, the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C., proposed the creation of a botanic garden. The aim was to grow and display both foreign and domestic plants and make them available for the American people to view and enjoy.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were among those who spearheaded the idea of a permanent formal botanical garden in Washington, D.C.

Congress established the garden near the Capitol grounds, on a plot stretching from First Street to Third Street between Pennsylvania and Maryland Avenues.

The garden remained here until the Columbian Institute dissolved in 1837.

Five years later, the team from the U.S. Exploring Expedition to the South Seas brought a collection of living plants from around the world to Washington, which sparked renewed interest in the concept of a national botanic garden.

These plants were first housed in a greenhouse behind the Old Patent Office Building and were later moved to the former site of the Columbian Institute's garden. The USBG has been in operation since 1850, moving to its current home along Independence Avenue in 1933. 

It's under the purview of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress in 1856 and has been overseen by the Architect of the Capitol since 1934

The National Garden opened in October 2006 as an extension to the USBG and serves as an outdoor annex and learning laboratory. The National Garden includes a First Ladies' water garden, an extensive rose garden, a butterfly garden, and a display of a variety of regional trees, shrubs and perennials.

Location of the Botanic Garden

The USBG is located across from the U.S. Capitol Building along First St. SW, between Maryland Ave. and C St. Bartholdi Park sits behind the Conservatory and is accessible from Independence Ave., Washington Ave. or First St. The closest Metro station is Federal Center SW. 

Admission to the Botanic Garden is free, and it's open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bartholdi Park is accessible from dawn until dusk.