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Special collections

Ficus Lilliputiana

Figs (genus Ficus)

The genus Ficus contains more than 850 species, including the common fig. In collaboration with the Weiblen Lab at the University of Minnesota, the CBS Conservatory maintains a diverse collection of Ficus species. The figs in this collection helped to determine fig and fig wasp mutualism, a highly-specialized pollination syndrom. Most fig species are pollinated by tiny species of wasps that are highly specific to their favored plant. They enter the developing synconium, or "fruit," and pollinate it, allowing their own young to develop within. 

Species Impatiens

Though most people are familiar with the hybrid, commonly found as annual color in shady Minnesota landscapes, the remaining 1000+ species in the genus Impatiens are little known. The reason for this being that there are no publicly available collections of this diverse and interesting group of plants. The CBS Conservatory houses one of the largest, and growing, collections of species in the genus Impatiens. These species are an important resource in the breeding programs to replace the current hybrids which are imperiled by a new fungal disease. 

Oaks (genus Quercus)

Oaks are an important component of forests across North America, Eurpoe, and Asia, but they are range down into South America, and North Africa. Some become massive trees, while others remain shrub-like. There are species that loose their leaves every winter, and those than are evergreen. In short, oaks are a varied and interesting group! In association with the Cavender-Bares lab at the University of Minnesota, the CBS Conservatory maintains a diverse collection of oak species. Our oak collection represents the wide range of the genus, the morphological diversity, and serves as a backup to an active research program exploring the impressive diversity of this familiar and yet exotic group.

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants have evolved specialized and costly structures to extract nutrients from animals either directly or by means of mutualist organisms. This extreme and unusual strategy for acquiring nutrients that most plants get through their roots has evolved multiple times in flowering plants, and even in some liverworts. Carnivorous plants inhabit low nutrient conditions on every continent except Antarctica, in habitats from deserts to tropical cloud forests to arctic bogs. There are four naturally-occuring groups of carnivorous plants in Minnesota. The Conservatory collection includes species from tropical to temperate, and from sticky flypaper-like traps to elegant pitchers.


This family has over 3,000 species of mostly herbs in the tropics and subtropics​. ​These plants can grow a whole new plant from a piece of a leaf or broken stem if it lodges in the right niche.​ Many are epiphytes, often growing at different heights on trees in tropical rain forests. Some terrestrial species have tubers or a unique scaly rhizome to survive long dry seasons. All of these ​popular ​genera have some species used as popular houseplants, as they bloom in the lower light indoors. There are several genera in different parts of the world that evolved to grow in rock crevices, where water seeps down the mountains and waters them at the roots as well as rainwater.

  • Saintpaulia, the African Violet,​ is​ ​from​ East Africa.
  • Streptocarpus​ from​ southern Africa and Madagascar.
  • Petrocosmea i​s from ​the mountains of China.
  • Sinningia, including the Gloxinia used by florists,​​ are ​from​ Brazil​. They have evolved flowers of many different colors and shapes to attract different pollinators, including euglossine bees, hummingbirds and even bats.  

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