The Pollinator Garden

Location:monarch-butterfly-on-tithonia-2 The East side of the National Museum of Natural History at 9th Street between Constitution Avenue and the National Mall

Hours: Always open, always beautiful.

This garden packs a punch. Over 250 varieties of plants live in an area that until 20 years ago was just an alleyway next to the National Museum of Natural History. Today, the garden brings the museum’s investigation of natural ecosystems to life by providing a meadow-inspired pollinator habitat. Turn over a leaf, check between flower petals or look to the sky in the Pollinator Garden—you’ll be hard-pressed to miss the many insects, birds and other animals that are welcomed into their urban oasis.

Don’t miss:

Pollination Investigation

The “Pollination Investigation” interpretive panels. The three goals of this garden are: to create something of beauty, to provide a great space for wildlife and to be educational to the people who enjoy it. While the first two goals are achieved during the workday by the diligent Smithsonian Gardens team, the third goal is accessible at any time by looking over the signs that appear above the flora every few steps. These placards explain the who, what, when, where, why, and how of pollination. Graphically striking and full of fun facts, these panels contextualize pollinators within the story of grander ecosystems. The “what” placard has an especially interesting fact about sound of bumblebees.


The milkweed. Until recently, this garden was named the Butterfly Habitat. In June, the garden was renamed and its mission refocused on educating visitors on the wide array of pollinators and their relationships with different plants. Still, the garden’s original reverence for the king of all butterflies is evident in the masses of milkweed, the host plant for monarch caterpillars.  See if you can spot monarchs is all stages of their life – as an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly.

Want to do some more digging? During the run of The Secret Garden, STC is celebrating all things green and growing! You’re invited to share and explore all the beauty that can be found outside. Visit to learn more.

Photos courtesy of Smithsonian Gardens and James Gagliardi.