As campus warms up for spring, an ideal place to appreciate flora from all over the world is one of the University of Connecticut’s many greenhouses.
UConn’s Torrey Life Sciences greenhouses, which cover about 10,000 square feet, houses the teaching and research collection and are open 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, to the public.
The TLS Greenhouses contain about 3,000 species, including about 275 families on display, making this facility one of the most diverse collections in the Northeast.
Regular tours are held, and run for about an hour, detailing the considerable diversity of plants housed at these greenhouses. Tours are held as part of classes such as BIO 1102 and EEB 2244, but can be booked by any interested groups. Interested groups that commonly tour the facility include elementary school classes, garden clubs, and groups like the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society.
There is also a greenhouse at the Biology/Physics building, which covers about 6,000 square feet. This is where most faculty and student research occurs, and is a secured facility not open to the public.
In addition to the greenhouses maintained under the EEB department, other greenhouses are maintained by CAHNR and the Plant Science Department. This includes the Floriculture Facility on route 195, housed by CAHNR. The primary purpose of this facility is to teach students to grow and maintain crops. It is open to the public and contains six full greenhouses.
There is also a climate-controlled greenhouse as a part of the Agricultural Biotechnology Lab, also located on route 195 near the Dairy Bar. This facility was built with USDA funding and is used for biotechnology research. It is generally leased by research firms who wish to use the facilities. This facility is not open to the public.
Lastly, there are greenhouses at the Plant Science Research Farm about a mile south of main campus. Much research here is related to turf grass and outdoor materials, and they also house nurseries here. This area is open to the public as well.
“For the public greenhouses here, we are deeply involved in all three of the university’s main missions, obviously research, and some plants in the public teaching collection are used for research. A lot of teaching goes on, not just university biology classes but also we bring a lot of people over from the Ag. School.” Clinton Morse, Manager of the Plant Growth Facilities, said.
In addition, some fine arts classes meet in the greenhouse in order to use the plants as the subjects of their artwork.
Students looking to enjoy a greenhouse facility should investigate the TLS Greenhouses or the Floricultural Facility. The Floricultural Facility includes a plant shop, ideal for those seeking to purchase flowers.
For those looking for rare and unique plants, the TLS Greenhouses are the best choice. These greenhouses are arranged by climate, like temperate or tropical and by continent.
One such curiosity includes a famous flower called the corpse flower, which can be found in the African section. About every three years, the flower blooms and produces the overwhelming stench of rotting flesh. This evolutionary adaptation allows the corpse flower to attract beetles and flies to pollinate it.
Other flowers for adventurous explorers include the voodoo lilies, which bloom reliably every year at around this time. Papayas, oranges and other fruits are also blooming currently in the tropical areas. Depending on the season, the assortment of plants in bloom is variable.
“We enjoy having visitors. A lot of people walk by the greenhouses day in and day out and never stop and come in and actually see what we have in the greenhouses. We like to encourage people that are at all curious about plants and the environment to pop in and get out of the cold for a couple of minutes. It is a resource that is available to the university and the general public and we would like for more people to be aware of it,” Morse said.