Southern California forest in glass

Beauty that teaches at a new L.A.-area conservatory
Matthew Jaffe

Educational and lushly beautiful, the Huntington Botanical Gardens' new Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science offers an ideal spring outing for kids and parents. Upon entering the soaring conservatory and getting hit with its warm, humid air, you immediately become aware of the tropical forest, bog, and cloud forest environments that this facility re-creates.

Giant palms soar toward the glass ceiling and plants fill a large pond ― elevated so visitors can see roots and life underwater ― along a serpentine pathway.

Over in the plant lab, hands-on exhibits take basic botany lessons out of the textbook realm. Use a videoscope to collect and transfer pollen from a flower's anther to its stigma, or glimpse living algae through a microscope.

There are enough creepy surprises to hold the interest of even the most jaded visitor. The pitcher plant captures water in its vaselike shoots to drown unsuspecting insects, then secretes acids and enzymes that dissolve the prey ― the tropics gone gothic.

Info: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (12-4:30 Tue-Fri, 10:30-4:30 Sat-Sun; $15, $12 ages 12-18, $6 ages 5-11; 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino; www.huntington.org or 626/405-2100)