The Muttard Conservatory
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  Posted January 18th, 2015 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | 2 comments

Edmonton heritage

By: Zdenko Kahlina

Four amazing pyramids, endless opportunities for discovery.
Muttart Conservatory pyramids are indeed a “jewel in the arctic”. With eight months of the year shrouded in wintry weather, Edmonton is the most populous northern city in Canada. Naturally, if you live here you would develop a craving for other earthly climes especially in the middle of winter.

I moved here from Europe twenty years ago with my family. My first winter saw me in bouts of extended depression. Then one day I discovered Muttart – four heavenly pyramids set in the middle of the arctic desert. Each one is special in its own way. You can experience an arid, a temperate, a tropical or a show pyramid or all four at once depending on your fancy. Entering any one of the pyramids is akin to entering an enchanted land. You soon forget all your troubles and mundane activities and immerse yourself in the sublime environment that pyramid has to offer oblivious to the -30C weather outside.

The Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada consists of four glass pyramid greenhouses. Each pyramid has a different theme.

The conservatory, launched with a $1 million gift from the Gladys and Merrill Muttart Foundation, was officially opened September 3rd, 1976. Set in Edmonton’s lush river valley, the four pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory shimmer in the sun, home to thousands of species of plants, both domestic and exotic. It was billed as the most northerly botanical conservatory in North America, but it was the “pyramid power” that seemed to garner the most attention.

More than 30 years since the Muttart Conservatory opened, the pyramids have become such symbols of the city that it’s hard to imagine Edmonton without them. When you look at any promotion picture for Edmonton, almost always one of the images is the view of the city skyline, taken from the hill on Connors Road, with the Muttart Conservatory in the foreground.

Tropical Pyramid
The dense growth of plants inhabiting the Tropical Pyramid is lush, green, and fragrant, while the air is humid and warm. The colorful plants and canopied fig trees are typical of a tropical rain forest.

The tropical and temperate pyramids are 24 m (79′) high at apex; their base side length is 26 m (85′) and their overall area is 660 square meters (7,100 square feet). The arid and show pyramids are 18 m (59′) high at apex; the base length of their sides is 19.5 m (65′) and their overall area is 381 square meters (4,200 square feet).

Temperate Pyramid
Environmental conditions in the Temperate Pyramid are carefully controlled to allow the plants within to undergo a natural cycle of dormancy and active growth each year. The result is visually dramatic seasonal changes, much like what happens in Edmonton.  This is a very sought after pyramid in the winter when inside the plants think it’s spring and everything is alive with new growth while outside it is wintery, cold and grey.

Arid Pyramid
The plants that inhabit the Arid Pyramid originate in North America, the Mediterranean, Africa and Madagascar. These plants have the ability to survive dry air, irregular moisture and wide day/night temperature fluctuations. Many of these plants are of economic importance.

Feature Pyramid
The fourth pyramid has eight different themes each year. The Feature Pyramid is changed completely several times a year and each display features flowering plants that create seasonal celebrations of living color. The current one is celebrating Christmas.  There are more than 700 different species in the Conservatory.

Art Wall
The Muttart Art Wall is on the north side of the Conservatory’s central atrium and offers emerging artists an opportunity to exhibit their works.

A visit typically costs about $10. I recommend an Annual Pass for those of you living in Edmonton. With the Pass you can visit Muttart anytime all year round. My favorite pyramid is the “Tropical”; I simply love sitting in the pyramid reading a classic book, listening to the waterfall and the finches sing, surrounded by plants and trees of every kind.


The Muttart Conservatory, 9626 96 A Street, is open weekdays from 9 am to 5:30 pm and on weekends from 11 am to 5:30 pm. See or phone (780) 496 1403 for more information.

That was my vision of paradise. I don’t know what your’s is but I can tell you this much: create a mental image of your paradise and enter Muttart to find it realized. For those of you visiting Edmonton, my request is that please include Muttart in your itinerary. You will take away a memory, however ephemeral, that you’ll cherish all your life.

I really enjoyed my visit to the conservatory, because I learned so much about plants and trees from all over the world.

Have a good and healthy season.

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2 comments to “The Muttard Conservatory”

  1. Comment by George Willison:

    Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  2. Comment by Sylvia Wilson:

    Hi Zdenko: You might enjoy knowing that Gregory assisted with the design of the new addition to Muttart (Gregory is now an Architect in Vancouver).

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