Milwaukee’s version of ‘Under the Dome(s)’


Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Conservatory – AKA “The Domes” – is an interesting take on a botanical garden.

The Domes are made up of three domed buildings. Each houses a special group of flowers and plants. The show dome houses special features. This dome’s exhibits can change throughout the year. The tropical dome houses plants from tropical areas. And the desert dome, as you likely have guessed, is home to plants and flowers from desert areas.

Omaha has a few versions of the Domes. The Lauritzen Botanical Garden is an outdoor floral and plant attraction. The Desert Dome at the Omaha zoo is home to various desert exhibits from around the world. The indoor rain forest is home to various plants from multiple continents.

Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

The Domes were a nice break for us from outdoor activities. It was a well-timed visit, due to the fact it was the one day that we encountered rain while sightseeing. The Domes were the perfect area for us to spend an hour or so walking about the attractions inside.

We started with the show dome. It had a variety of exhibits. We saw some flowers and plants from around the United States. The exhibits reminded us of a huge home and garden show. A large gazebo sat in the middle of the dome, with a large variety of flowers and plants surrounding it.

Show Dome at Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

A cut out of a “grandma” working in the garden was situated in one area of the dome. Cute items at Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

A wheel barrel, tipped on its side was host to plants lay in one garden.

Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

Garden gnomes infiltrated one field. One looked like he was a day dreamer.

Gnomes in the Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

The “guardians of holidays” were discovered. Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and their buddies were in the show dome.

We moved on to the tropical dome.

Tropical Dome at Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

Taking a look around, at first, it did not impress me that much, only because we have the indoor rainforest in Omaha.
But, after a few minutes walking around, I liked it. It was different than home. It may have been smaller, but it just impressed me with the set-up of the plants, trees and flowers of tropical areas. Flowers in the Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

From the Domes’ website,, a closer look at the tropical dome:

Perhaps the most familiar plants of the rainforest are those we have incorporated into our homes and offices for decorating — plants such as philodendrons, peperomias, bromeliads, orchids, ferns, marantas and calatheas. Other flowering plants that provide vibrant color to the tropical exhibit include amaryllis, hibiscus, anthurium, calliandra, clerodendron, crinum and heliconia.

Unusual tropical life forms are also apparent. A rainforest ecosystem develops vertically as well as horizontally. Our favorite houseplants are often found growing as ground covers in the tropics; their adaptation to low light enables them to survive in our homes. A wide array of epiphytes (plants that use other plants for physical support) such as orchids, bromeliads and ferns are growing overhead on tree branches. Indeed, it is in the forest canopy, along tree branches that much of the plant productivity and diversity occur. Vining plants that scramble up trees to gain more light include vanilla and rangoon creeper (Quisqualis). The tallest trees of the rainforest are called “emergents” because their canopies rise above all others. Here in the Tropical Dome, our emergent is the kapok (Ceiba pentandra), reaching 85′ tall. Look at its base and you will discover an important adaptation to the shallow tropical soils – buttressed roots that afford additional support for the tree.

Tropical flowers in Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

The last stop was the desert dome.

Dessert Dome at Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

The thing that stood out to me was the décor used for the Arizona desert. An old Arizona license plate and a fake rattlesnake sit among the cacti and other flowers and plants of the Sonorran desert.

I loved seeing a plant grow out of an old boot. Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

The domes’ curators have done an impressive job in setting up the exhibits.

Cactus at Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee

The desert dome contains desert plants from Africa, South America and North America.

The Domes are worth the visit. Whether, you are hiding out from the rain, or want to take in the attractions on a sunny day, I strongly recommend making the Domes a stop on your Milwaukee itinerary.