The UCF Arboretum is growing more than just plants. This month it’s also growing its facilities, with a new greenhouse, which was slated to finish construction on March 4.
The greenhouse will mainly be used as a teaching tool, said Jennifer Elliott, coordinator of the arboretum. It will serve as a place to propagate plants for the arboretum’s community garden and for certain biology classes, which will engage both students and volunteers.
Dr. Rani Vajravelu, who teaches biology courses in plant kingdoms, culinary botany, ethnobotany and medicinal botany, is one of the professors who plans to utilize the greenhouse. The greenhouse’s regulated temperature, she said, will allow her to have live plants for her students year-round, something she has not been able to do until now. Vajravelu will be able to use it for her classes as an “herbal garden, medicinal garden, all of that and a place to store plants and experiments,” she added.
Until now, Vajravelu used the arboretum’s community garden to grow plants for her classes or had to buy plants as she needed them. Now, not only can she keep live plants year-
round, but she can also store experiments and clone and hybridize plants.
Vajravelu’s students are usually biology or environmental studies majors, but students of all disciplines will be able to access the greenhouse by volunteering at the arboretum.
“[Students] will not have open access to it like they do to the garden,” Elliott said. “But yes, certainly. We will use it to engage our volunteers just like we use the garden.”
Michelle Clarke, an environmental studies junior, said that the greenhouse will “be able to teach students hands-on ways because some students are hands-on learners.” Clarke wants to volunteer there propagating plants, and said that the greenhouse may draw more students with similar interests.
This is not the first time the arboretum has housed a greenhouse. The Stockard Conservatory was used as a teaching tool in the 1980s and 1990s, much like the new greenhouse will be.
“It was destroyed in the 04 hurricanes,” Elliott said. “That one was really beautiful.”
The new greenhouse, Elliott said, will be made of a more functional plexiglass, unlike the Stockard Conservatory, which was “definitely very aesthetic” and made of glass.
The new greenhouse will open on March 25 with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony at the arboretum from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Allison Miehl is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.