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Forcing tropical plants to grow in the snow belt has been a passion at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens since its Victorian glass house was built in 1900. Growing natives was not de rigeur a hundred years ago, so exotic heat lovers were coaxed into bloom under a dome. And what a dome it is, based on the Crystal Palace in Kew Gardens Palm House in England.
More than a hundred years later, the folks in Buffalo are still skilled at bringing out the best in their horticultural treasures from around the world. I had the pleasure of visiting last weekend, on a day when late winter temperatures soared into the 50’s. My tour began in the Palm Dome and I wandered through a dozen glass houses showing collections of ferns, cactii, orchids, and other specimens that have no natural business in a town that boasts more snow fall than any other in the continental U.S.
A visit to the Palm Dome was not my reason for being in Buffalo. I was there to watch another heat-loving exotic specimen — Jacksonville University men’s lacrosse team — play the winter weather wise Canisius College Golden Griffs. Unlike another upstate New York lacrosse team, the Griffs do not play under a dome and should have had the weather god advantage over the Jacksonville Dolphins when the mercury dropped below 40 on game day. The ‘Phins took the day 12-8, however, under cold and cloudy skies before flying back to the Florida sunshine. Those southern natives flourished without a dome to keep them warm.
Recommended Reading — City of Light, by Lauren Belfer. A novel of suspense around an independent woman in Buffalo during the Golden Age.