A dragon, sea serpent, mermaids, fairies and Mother Nature’s house can all be found in one Omaha location.
They’re all part of Lauritzen Gardens’ latest exhibit, “Fantastical Folklore.”
The colorful show set in the garden’s extensive plant kingdom has visitors exploring and learning more about the legends and lore of fantastical creatures and habitats around the world.
This enchanting exhibit, on display through May 9, celebrates the links between the natural and mythical worlds.
The legendary creatures found throughout this indoor exhibit were created by Lauritzen Gardens staff and artists from Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha.
As guests enter the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory, they are greeted by Anansi, which according to African folktales, is a powerful and mischievous spider that made the sun and moon, put stars into the night sky, and taught people how to build houses and crops.
Once inside the garden’s temperate house, visitors can see a Kitsune standing near a tree. These foxes have reputations as clever, wily, shape-shifting tricksters in Japan. They are said to have up to nine tails, depending on their age, wisdom and power.
A large dragon and its nest are found nearby. Dragons are the focus of many mythologies which portray them as huge, bat-winged, fire-breathing, scaly lizards or snakes with barbed tails.
Before making their way out of the temperate house, visitors see two “Dandy Lions” adorned with yellow and white flowers. These lions represent the merging of mythologies.
Lions are symbols of power and strength in many cultures and also the subject of many legends. Appalachian folklore says that if you blow away the seeds of a common dandelion, you will be granted one wish. The Dandy Lion merges these two together into a playful creature often depicted with a floral mane and a dandelion tail that has the power to grant wishes with his tail.
Children who read the information about the bright red Yara-Ma-Yha-Who sculpture in the tropical house may be a bit alarmed. Yara-Ma-Yha-Who are used as a cautionary tale to prevent children from entering dangerous areas in Australian aboriginal mythology.
The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who is a red, toad-like creature that has a large head, a toothless mouth and a body covered with fur. It is said to swallow victims whole, take a nap, then spit out its prey.
Nearly all colors of the rainbow make up the phoenix greeting guests along the path of the tropical house. A few steps further and visitors can’t miss a sea serpent, whose long and winding body made up of many varieties of coleus plants, resembles a giant snake.
In the upper deck overlooking the conservatory, a large group of rainbow crow eerily hang above visitors’ heads.
Once inside the floral display hall, guests make their way through the underground world of gnomes. Stories of gnomes appear in many cultures, and they are now often portrayed in gardens as stout creatures with pointy hats and long white beards.
The Old One greets visitors as they exit the underground world of gnomes. The sculpture by Paula Wallace, Mike Fucinaro and Diane Mattern is made from an assortment of recycled materials, including cardboard and paper.
A pair of turtles, a sacred creature among many Native American tribes, can be found resting top rocks in the floral display hall’s pond.
The focal point of the exhibit in the display hall is the fantastical fairy house tower. Made by garden staff, the house tower is covered by flowers. Whimsical umbrellas adorned with colorful leaves from a variety of trees and shrubs hang above the tower to provide shelter to the fairies’ homes.
For the safety of garden visitors, COVID-19 safety precautions are in place throughout the Omaha garden located at 100 Bancroft St.
“Fantastical Folklore” is designed as a one-way experience for guests. Face masks must be worn inside of the visitor and education center and the conservatory.
Lauritzen Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Timed tickets are required and may be purchased at www.lauritzengardens.org.