Green Goes Gigantic: Huge Public Gardens & Eco-Museums

Where can you go to learn about nature – in both academic environments, and face-to-face – in a big way? Some of the world’s largest public gardens and eco-museums contain dazzling arrays of both live and preserved plant specimens, as well as opportunities to get more familiar with our planet’s natural history. But that’s only the beginning.  If some of the following as-yet-unbuilt concepts come to pass, in the future we’ll have even bigger indoor gardens, zoos and aquariums.

Sietch Nevada Underground Garden City Concept

(image via: Matsys Design)

In 1965, hidden underground oases of the world’s last remaining freshwater were merely science fiction. But those ‘sietch’ described in Frank Herbert’s famous novel Dune are seeming more realistic as the American Southwest struggles with dwindling water supplies. A project called Sietch Nevada envisions turning Herbert’s vision into reality, storing water in vast underground communities that hum with life – both human and plant – far below the dusty surface of the earth.

Keukenhof Flower Garden, Netherlands

(image via: Wikipedia)

No matter where you go in the world, you’ll never find a bigger flower garden than the one at Keukenhof, located near Lisse, Netherlands. Known as the ‘Garden of Europe’, Keukenhof is home to more than 7 million flower bulbs – mostly iconic Dutch tulips in a rainbow of colors.

Botanischer Garten, Berlin, Germany

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Among the biggest botanical gardens on Earth, Berlin’s Botanisher Garten is also considered one of the world’s most important. Encompassing an area that measures nearly 430,000 square miles, the garden contains about 22,000 species of plants and consists of a Botanical Museum, a large herbarium, a scientific library and a number of glass houses. One of them, the Great Pavilion, is the largest glass house in the world.

Dochodo Island Zoo Concept, South Korea

(image via: Inhabitat)

Once it’s built, the Dochodo Island Zoo in South Korea would not only be the biggest, tallest zoo ever – but also the most unusual (in shape at least). All transportation, energy sources and building systems would be contained within giant polygonal structures reaching 20 meters into the sky. This so-called “infrastructural green belt” would make as little an impact on the land itself as possible.

National Botanic Garden, Belgium

(image via: Maribelle71)

Few man-made places can claim that they contain 6% of all the known plant species in the world, but the National Botanic Garden in Belgium is one of the world’s largest botanical gardens and 18,000 plant species call it home. Half can be seen in the greenhouses, while the rest grow outdoors.  Also on its grounds is the 12th century Boechout Castle, used for conferences and exhibitions.

Bay South Garden, Singapore

(image via: Inhabitat)

Singapore will get another 1 million square miles of green garden space once the Bay South project is unveiled in 2011. The country’s largest garden project, this botanical preserve will feature towering solar trees which not only collect solar energy and rainwater, but also serve as gigantic trellises for a number of plant species including ferns and vines. A second 32-hectare development called Bay East, featuring water gardens and an aquatic education center, will open at a later date.

Qinling Mountain National Botanic Garden, China

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Home to critically endangered pandas and many species of endangered plants, the Qinling Mountains in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province will soon have a massive botanical garden in an effort to protect them. The gardens will cover roughly 284 square miles – four times the size of Australia’s Queensland Botanical Gardens, which are currently the world’s largest – and will protect a total of 6,100 rare plant species. The national botanic garden will form an extension to the existing Qinling Botanical Gardens, located in central Shaanxi’s Zhouzhi County.

Kalyna Country, Canada

(image via: Wikipedia)

Alberta, Canada’s Kalyna Country is the world’s largest ecomuseum at more than 12,427 square miles. This heritage and eco-tourism district, named after the highbush cranberry plant, is home to large numbers of Ukrainian Canadians and includes Elk Island National Park and the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. It’s also famous for the Giants of the Prairies, which are huge roadside attractions including giant potatoes and the world’s largest sundial.

National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France

(image via: Wikipedia)

The world’s largest collection of preserved plant specimens is at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN) in Paris. This herbarium contains over 8 million carefully dried and protected plants from around the world. Such collections as this help scientists maintain a historical record of changes in vegetation over time, and retain specimens of plants that have since gone extinct.

American Museum of Natural History

(image via: Wikipedia)

Perhaps there’s no better place in America to see a visual representation of the earth’s natural history as this museum, located in just outside Manhattan’s Central Park in New York. One of the largest museums in the world, the AMNH contains over 32 million specimens – so many, that they can only display a fraction of them at one time. The history of human biology and evolution, meteorites, minerals and gems and fossils are only a few of the nature-related subjects covered here.

Songdo International City Ecotarium, South Korea

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South Korea’s newest metropolis got its very own Central Park inspired by the one in New York City, and its crowning jewel will be an “ecotarium” packed full of fresh and salt-water marine habitats, scenic footbridges and promenades. The flow of the seawater canal will be powered by wind turbines and will harness seawater transported from the West Sea.

Eden Project, Cornwall, UK

(image via: Wikipedia)

The largest greenhouse on earth is located at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. Plants from around the world flourish inside the thermoplastic dome, which is only one of many moon-inspired artificial biomes on site. The record-setting Rainforest Biome is 180 feet high, 328 feet wide and 656 feet long.

King Abdullah International Gardens, Saudi Arabia

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The Eden Project will only boast the title of “world’s biggest greenhouse” for so long if the Saudis finish their own series of botanical landscapes outside Riyadh. King Abdullah International Gardens will feature two crescent-shaped enclosures projected to be five times larger than that of the Rainforest Biome in Cornwall. Inside, visitors will find a dazzling array of plants that span the entire history of botanical life from 400 million years ago until today, essentially walking back through time.

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