The United States Botanic Gardens: A Hidden Oasis in the Concrete Jungle

toursforhumanity History, Travel, Uncategorized

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.

-Walt Whitman

View of the Capitol Building and the Botanic Gardens.

One of the best things about visiting D.C. is the amazing collection of museums the city has to offer.  Everyone talks about the Air and Space and American History museum, but the United States Botanic Garden is one you hardly hear about.  Which is a shame because I believe it is the most underrated “museum” in The Capitol.


The U.S. Botanic Garden has something for everyone. It has great resources for teachers who have brought their students to visit our nation’s capital. The U.S.B.G has free convenient tours every day you are not required to sign up for. Alternatively, for those of you who like to wander the gardens solo, the Botanical Gardens offers a self-guided cell phone tour.

This plant is part of the Cell Phone Tour.


When I visited the Botanic Garden, I attended the Conservatory tour at 10:30 am on Thursday morning, my tour guide was the lovely Sarah Merick from Decatur, Georgia. The nice thing about going on this tour on a weekday morning it was a small group, so we were able to be really interactive with our guide and she was able to answer all our questions. I learned some pretty cool botanical facts on this tour.

First of all, did you know quinine is a plant not only used to treat malaria and nocturnal leg cramps but is also an ingredient in tonic water?  Apparently, back in the day, circa 1852, British Officers in the Indian Army improved the taste of this bitter medicine by mixing it with gin, sugar, and soda water. Instead of drinking it in the morning, the British officers enjoyed a cocktail hour in the evenings with their troops. Thus the Gin and Tonic was born, and soon became a quintessential drink of the British Empire.

The Quinine Plant

Another interesting story we heard from our tour guide was one about Spanish moss. Supposedly, Henry Ford once used Spanish moss as seat stuffing for his newly invented automobiles. The cars were later recalled because drivers were complaining about little red bites on their butts. This is due to the fact that an insect called chiggers live in Spanish moss, so you don’t want to be sitting in it.


My absolute favorite exhibit in the Botanic Gardens is the Rainforest Room. It is humid, and warm and wonderful. The palm trees are 3 stories high and the room is dense with foliage. There are benches all over the room so you can sit and bring a book there if you so choose. The coolest part of the Rainforest Room is the canopy bridge. The bridge borders the top of the Rainforest Room and you can walk around and look down on all the cool plant life below.

The Rainforest Room.


I will definitely be going back to visit the Gardens when it gets warmer to wander through the outdoor courtyards. Even if you don’t possess an affinity for botany, or your thumb isn’t the greenest, I highly recommend you check out the United States Botanical Gardens, You never know what you might learn.

The U.S.B.G. is located at 100 Maryland Ave. SW in Washington DC right near The Capitol Building and is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday-Friday.

Want to take a tour of the Botanic Gardens? Join Tours for Humanity on one of our walking tours around D.C., including the National Mall, the Lincoln Assassination, the Tidal Basin, and our three-hour Drinking History tour. We donate a portion of profits to charities fighting ignorance, poverty, and disease. Our walking tours won’t save the world, but they are a step in the right direction.