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Campus greenhouse offers visitors break from frigid winter weather


Days of subzero temperatures have you dreaming of warmer climates and blooming flowers but a tropical vacation isn’t in the cards?

Good news … UW-Eau Claire’s biology greenhouse has you covered.

Best of all?

No plane ride — or entrance fee — required!

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Lynn Janik manages UW-Eau Claire’s greenhouse, which features hundreds of plant species from around the world.

Wander through the greenhouse, located at the top of Phillips Science Hall, and you will quickly forget all about Wisconsin’s frigid winter weather.

In the greenhouse, orchids with more than 50 blooms, lemon and chocolate trees, sugar cane and a 150-pound (and growing) fern are among the 500 plant species that are thriving in the fifth-floor facility.

“With this many different species, plants are blooming at different times all through the year,” says Lynn Janik, the greenhouse manager. “But there are definitely some things in bloom right now. We have many species of orchids, with each blooming about once a year. So at any given time — including now — we have orchids blooming.

“Color excites people, especially at this time of year. If someone wants to enjoy some color or needs a break from winter, they are welcome to visit. We had a father and his daughter here earlier today.”

During the course of a year, about 500 community visitors and area schoolchildren enjoy the greenhouse in addition to the many UW-Eau Claire faculty and students who use the plants in their teaching, research and learning.

While there are some familiar houseplants in the greenhouse collection, a majority of the plant species are native to tropical climates, Janik says, noting that many of the plants are from places like Madagascar, Mexico and various parts of Asia.

Having access to plants that they cannot easily see or touch while living in Wisconsin is a draw for many of the Blugolds and community members who visit the 3,500-square-foot greenhouse, Janik says.

After all, she says, outside of the greenhouse it would be hard to find a plant that smells exactly like root beer when you rub its leaves, a plant with a life expectancy of 2,000 years or a plant used to make Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Species with names like monkey plant, tiger jaw, hedgehog lily, elephant’s tongue and queen of Namib also are likely to spark some interest among the community’s plant lovers.

A few of the plants in the facility were gifts from community members or visitors, including a large staghorn fern and a few orchids, says Janik, who spends 30 hours a week tending to the greenhouse.

However, many of the rarest plants in UW-Eau Claire’s collection were gifts from other university greenhouses or from nearby conservatories, such as the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison and the McNeeley Conservatory in St. Paul.

UW-Eau Claire’s greenhouse was built in 1963, and expanded in 1969 and in 1973.

To learn more about the facility and the hundreds of plant species found there, see the greenhouse’s webpage or its Facebook page.

While the greenhouse welcomes visitors, hours vary so community members should email Janik at youngjlm@uwec.edu before planning their visit to campus.

 

 

 


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