Take trip to Coast Rica and never leave Ohio

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CLEVELAND – Visit two of the world’s most fragile ecosystems at the newly expanded Cleveland Botanical Garden.

The centerpiece of the botanical garden’s $37 million expansion and renovation, the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, opened July 15.

The glasshouse, an 18,000 square-foot conservatory contains examples of the spiny desert of Madagascar and the cloud forest of Costa Rica and is the first botanical garden to show both plants and animals in full ecological context.

“This is the easiest, cheapest trip to Costa Rica or Madagascar that anyone from Ohio or its neighboring states will ever take,” said Brian E. Holley, executive director of Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Long awaited. Nine years in planning and two in construction, the glasshouse is expected to bring more than 400,000 visitors and $25 million in economic impact to northeast Ohio in the next 12 months.

The glasshouse features 350 species of plants and 50 species of animals.

Madagascar highlights. The spiny desert is a bizarre landscape that looks as if it were designed by Dr. Seuss.

It includes the baobab tree, a 40-foot high “icon” of the spiny desert, a collection of endangered Madagascar plants and the largest collections of mature baobab and uncharina trees in North America.

Visitors will also see a pair of Oustelett’s chameleons, and a small, hedgehog-like animal called a “tenrec.”

Costa Rica highlights. The cloud forest of Costa Rica reproduces a lush, tropical landscape, a 50-foot high replica strangler fig, a waterfall and a river gorge, a 25-foot high Costa Rican palm, as well as towering black olive, fig, and avocado trees.

More than 200 butterflies, representing 20 species, will also greet visitors.

A 25-foot high canopy walk offers birds’ eye views of the trees, as well as orchids and bromeliads.

Getting there. Located in the heart of University Circle, Cleveland Botanical Garden is also the home of 10 acres of award-winning gardens. The garden is 3 miles south of Interstate 90 using the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard exit.

Admission is free to members; $7 for adults; $3 for children 3-12.

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