The largest pavilion of BBG’s conservatory complex, the Tropical Pavilion—6,000 square feet under glass—soars to a height of 65 feet to accommodate its tallest trees. It recreates a tropical forest, including waterfalls and streams. The main tropical regions of the world are represented here: the Amazon basin, African rainforest, and tropical eastern Asia.
Perhaps the earliest American botanic garden to organize its tropical forest display in terms of economic uses of plants, BBG continues this tradition in the Tropical Pavilion. Plantings are arranged to represent the categories of fragrance, food, medicine, and industry, with ornamental plants through the house. Also emphasized in the Tropical Pavilion is the importance of conservation. In particular, the continued destruction of tropical forests results in the loss of potentially valuable plants that could provide food or medicines.
Leonard Paul is the foreman of the Steinhardt Conservatory and curator of the Tropical Pavilion. After working for many years in the private landscaping business in and around Brooklyn, he started his career here at BBG as an intern in 1993 and was in the first graduating class of the Horticulture Certificate Program. In fall 1993, he joined the newly formed composting department as an instructor and later became a senior instructor for Project Green Reach. In 1999 he joined the Horticulture department as a grounds gardener and was promoted to foreman of grounds in 2005. In 2008 he moved into the greenhouse as foreman of the Steinhardt Conservatory. Leonard’s greatest joy is to interact on a daily basis with the many visitors to BBG who come from all over the world to see this “green oasis” in the heart of Brooklyn. He has been working with plants all his life and cannot imagine doing anything else: “Having plants around me is like having a shield of protection.”