Weird and Wonderful
You're in Madagascar's spiny desert
Be transported more than 9,000 miles to a remarkable island off the coast of Africa. Some ecologists have dubbed it the “eight continent of the world.” You feel as if you’ve entered a surreal world where the ordinary is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a bizarre landscape that might have been designed by Dr. Seuss. If you hear the sound of “chick-pea-pea-pea” from above, it’s probably the red-billed fire finch singing its distinctive tune.
Amid a world-class collection of endangered plants are exotic animals, including chameleons, a yellow-throated plated lizard and three radiated tortoises. Here you’ll find one of the largest collections of Madagascan baobab trees under glass in the United States. Often called the “upside-down tree,” this iconic tree has massive trunks, hard-shelled fruit, and, if you’re lucky enough to see it bloom, the most wonderful orange flowers you’ve ever seen. Demonstrating incredible adaptability, Alluaudia comosa’s thorns ward off predators and stave off water evaporation. Despite its appearance, this prickly plant is not a cactus – nor, for that matter, are any of Madagascar’s desert-dwelling plants. They’re spiny succulents.
Madagascar’s plants are among the most unique on the planet as many are found nowhere else on earth. Your visit to this dry and distant land doesn’t even require you to leave Cleveland.
Did you know?
• The radiated tortoise lives to up to 50 years.
• The chameleon is free-roaming and can often be spotted with help from a docent or Garden staff member.
• Named for elephants’ feet, the Pachypodium is a spiny succulent that stores water in its swollen trunk to survive droughts. Its ornamental curling leaves resemble wrought iron.
• More than half of the plants in the Madagascar display are protected by international conservation treaties.
"Upside-Down" baobabs in the Madagascar biome
These unusual trees have trunks that store water and can grow up to 36 feet tall.