The Cleveland Botanical Garden is pleased to welcome the visually-stunning “Life in One Cubic Foot” exhibit, opening Saturday, January 27, through Sunday, April 17, 2024. The exhibit follows the research of Smithsonian scientists and photographer David Liittschwager as they discover what a cubic foot of land or water—a biocube—reveals about the diversity of life on the planet. The exhibit is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. 

Tickets are on sale now and include the Orchids Forever flower show opening January 27 through March 17, 2024. Purchase tickets in advance at  

“Life in One Cubic Foot” Photos – All photos courtesy of Holden Forests & Gardens 

From Ohio woodlands to South African shrubland to a coral reef in the South Pacific, “Life in One Cubic Foot” reveals the incredible diversity of nature and inspires visitors to take part in science. A biocube—the tool at the heart of the exhibition—is a 1-by-1-by-1-foot framed cube that organisms from the surrounding environment can enter and pass through. Biocubes featured in the exhibition were placed at the Holden Arboretum and in environments across the globe to learn what forms of life, both known and unknown, could be found in the cube during a 24-hour period. In addition to exploring life through the exhibition, visitors are also invited to participate in citizen science and uncover the biodiversity in their backyard by creating and monitoring their own biocube. 

The Arboretum’s biocubes identified spring ephemeral wildflowers, like trillium and wild leek, as well as mycorrhizal fungi that grow on and benefit the soil. 

“Soil contains a universe of intricate life forms that benefit our plants and trees and forms the very foundation for life on our planet,” said David Burke, PhD, vice president of science and conservation at Holden Forests & Gardens. “Understanding the vital importance of these microorganisms is necessary for the conservation of natural systems of life on Earth.” 

Arboretum scientists at the Long Center for Plant & Environmental Science have been studying the soil for almost two decades. To understand an ecosystem, sometimes you must dig deep. From bugs to bacteria, from algae to fungi, the soil is teeming with organisms. In fact, just one teaspoon of natural soil could contain billions of species, making soil one of the most diverse habitats on Earth.  

This important research has revealed how fungi respond to changes in soil moisture and chemistry, demonstrating the impact of human activities on the structure of key fungal communities. 

Gallery Talks with Holden Scientists at the Botanical Garden select Fridays from 10AM to 10:30AM  

Join us in the “Life in One Cubic Foot” exhibit on select Fridays in February and March to meet and talk with our scientists about their work with spring wildflowers and mycorrhizal fungi and how it serves our Northeast Ohio community. No need to RSVP. Check for dates and more information. 

Learn more about biocubes 

Visitors can explore the National Museum of Natural History’s website to watch a video about biocubes and learn how to build, deploy, and study their own biocube. They may also share their findings with the greater scientific community. 

About Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) 

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 70 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science, and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.  For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit

About Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is connecting people everywhere with Earth’s unfolding story. The museum is one of the most visited natural history museums in the world. Opened in 1910, the museum is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world’s most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. For more information, visit   

About Cleveland Botanical Garden and Holden Forests & Gardens  

Cleveland Botanical Garden, located in Cleveland’s University Circle cultural district, is an ever-changing 10-acre urban oasis where visitors find enrichment and inspiration through fabulous gardens, an exotic Glasshouse, and seasonal events. The Cleveland Botanical Garden is part of Holden Forests & Gardens along with the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio.  Holden Forests & Gardens is making an impact in Northeast Ohio through urban greening and forestry initiatives, environmental research, educational programs, and world-class visitor experiences at its two campuses. For more information, visit  


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