Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory

Calopogon pallidus Display greenhouse Orchid Conservatory Arthur Kaplan

What's Blooming?                 Orchids in the Collection

The display greenhouse is open Monday through Friday 10 AM to 2 PM when the university is open, and at other times by appointment (contact Marcus E. Jones at for arrangements).

This $2.1 million structure with almost 3 000 square feet of greenhouse space houses the orchid collection of late Norfolk physician Arthur Kaplan, a longtime grower of exquisite orchids.  It is the largest orchid collection in the Tidewater, Virginia area.

The complex consists of five individually climate controlled greenhouses. The display house is over thirty feet high, and contains a rock wall with a waterfall and pool that is the backdrop for lush tropical plants and blooming orchids. In addition to the display greenhouse there are three greenhouses for growing orchids, and one greenhouse that is devoted entirely to botanical research. There is also a potting room and orchid propagation lab, as well as three office/lab complexes for plant research faculty.

Conservatory Staff

Marcus E. Jones -- Curator of the Kaplan Orchid Conservatory or call 757-683-5839

Lytton J Musselman -- Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany, Director

Directions and Parking

The Kaplan Orchid Conservatory is located in the heart of the Old Dominion University campus between Hampton Blvd and Elkhorn Ave at 44th street near the Perry Library.

Parking is available at parking lot A on Elkhorn Ave.  From Hampton Blvd turn West onto 43 rd st.   (a right turn if coming down Hpt. Blvd. from terminal Blvd/navy base/peninsula -- or a left turn if coming from downtown Norfolk/midtown tunnel). Turn right onto Elkhorn Ave. and turn right into Parking Garage A.  Metered parking is available on the ground level, or one can request a visitor's pass from the parking office.  Please obey all parking instructions-including those on visitor passes!

Exit the parking garage from the side door (opposite the parking office, walking away from 43 rd st.), and you will see the Conservatory approximately 160 paces down the red brick road.

Campus Map


The display greenhouse is a living classroom.  Plant material in the conservatory has been used in Botany, Ethnobotany, Biology and Evolutionary Biology courses, as well as English, Art and Photography classes.  At times throughout the year themed displays highlight educational aspects of some of the notable orchids and tropical plants.  This computer controlled state of the art facility offers a unique setting for teaching students and the general public about orchids and the natural world.


The conservatory is used by both faculty and students for research.  There is an Ethnobotany lab and DNA analyses lab outfitted with computers tied into a supercomputer in San Diego, CA that are used to analyze molecular sequences to unravel the Tree of Life of flowering plants.  One family of particular focus is the coffee family which s the fourth largest group of plants in the world behind orchids,sunflowers and beans.  One greenhouse is solely dedicated to living plant research.    The computer control system  monitors the climate in all six of the greenhouses, records data, and manipulates the greenhouse controls four times every minute offering researchers a powerful tool  whether they are promoting plant  growth to facilitate root tip cell chromosome counting, or studying the relationship of carbon dioxide on climate change.


The conservatory is home to many endangered species, as well as some that are extinct in nature.  The latest conservation effort involves the in vitro micropropagation (test tube babies) and germination of a native species of orchid. The seed for this project was collected from the only known population in the state of Virginia at ODU's Blackwater Ecologic Preserve.  With the assistance of a botany student these seedlings are being grown to be planted in the native wildflower garden at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in an attempt to keep the native wild orchid from becoming extirpated.

Collections & Display

This is the largest orchid collection in the Tidewater, Virginia area and the collection includes more than 475 species in 72 different genera.  The large display greenhouse, which is open to the public, contains a lush, rock wall and waterfall and splash pool that is the backdrop for verdant tropical plants and blooming orchids. In addition to orchids, the conservatory also houses many interesting tropical plants; some of which have economic value. Some examples include; cinnamon, chocolate, cola and mango.  The display greenhouse is open for a few hours (10 AM to 2 PM) most weekdays for students, faculty, staff and visitors from near and far to see hundreds of orchids in bloom as well as other tropical plants in a semi-natural setting.  Orchids that come into bloom in the growing greenhouses are regularly set out in the display greenhouse for all to see and smell, making the display an ever changing kaleidoscope of color.


Tidewater Orchid Society - Meetings are held the first Sunday of the month at ODU.

Norfolk Botanical Garden - Botanical Sister Institution

Updated: April 2011