Feel Good Fridays: Green thumbs up for the greenhouses

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The Carina Canariensis, also known as the Canary Island Bellflower. As of right now, the University of Connecticut’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology greenhouses have 134 accessions in 46 plant families blooming. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Moriarty of UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses.

The University of Connecticut’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology greenhouses have 134 accessions in 46 plant families blooming currently, Meghan Moriarty, living plants collection manager, said.  

Accessions are specific plants that have been added to the greenhouse collection, while plant families are the groups of plants that share physical characteristics, Moriarty said. The greenhouse has 2,738 accessions and 282 families in their collection. Approximately 2% of the plants are blooming right now.  

“I would say a small percentage of the greenhouse is in bloom right now, but every greenhouse has something blooming and interesting to look at,” Moriarty said.  

““I would say a small percentage of the greenhouse is in bloom right now, but every greenhouse has something blooming and interesting to look at,”

Meghan Moriarty, Living Plants Collection Manager

All of the plants that are in bloom are following their normal blooming patterns, she said.  

“Growing in New England in the winter has its challenges but we do our best to replicate the plant’s native habitat,” Moriarty said. “We don’t have any rule breakers at the moment, everything that is in bloom is following its historical time to bloom.”  

Each greenhouse section represents a different climate or region, Moriarty said. Although the Connecticut zone is dormant right now, there are still several exotic blooms present.  

A photo of the Costus Woodsonii. Each greenhouse section represents a different climate or region, Moriarty said. Although the Connecticut zone is dormant right now, there are still several exotic blooms present. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Moriarty of UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses.

“It is hard to pick the most exotic plant blooming right now. One that always catches my eye is an orchid called Dendrobium nakaharae,” she said. “It is a miniature orchid that is from Taiwan and lives in broad-leaved forests. The blooms are tiny — only about a half an inch across. If you catch one on the day it opens, it has the most wonderfully exotic slightly spicy scent.”  

Each region has their own distinct smell, she said. The tropical section has a “warm, earthy, humid, slightly spicy scent” while the mediterranean section smells of rosemary and lavender.  

“When you walk into our orchid greenhouse, you can tell right away if something is in bloom,” Moriarty said. “One of the favorite parts of my job is walking into the orchid room first thing in the morning and seeing and smelling if any flowers have opened up. Some of the orchids have such unique and powerful scents.  It really feels like you have been transported to another continent.”  

““One of the favorite parts of my job is walking into the orchid room first thing in the morning and seeing and smelling if any flowers have opened up. Some of the orchids have such unique and powerful scents.  It really feels like you have been transported to another continent.”

Meghan Moriarty, Living Plants Collection Manager

The strongest smelling bloom right now is the Dombeya wallichii, Moriarty said.  

“[The Dombeya wallichii] is from Madagascar and has pink balls of blooms that hang down and smell incredibly like buttercream frosting,” she said. “It is such a treat to see and smell the blooms during January in Connecticut.”   

A photo of the Dombeya Wallichii. The Dombeya Wallichii flower is from Madagascar. It has pink balls of blooms that hang down and smell incredibly like buttercream frosting. Photo courtesy of Meghan Moriarity of UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses.

She also mentioned how the colors of the blooms are very diverse.  

“There are so many different colors blooming right now,” Moriarty said. “Everything from coral, pink, red, yellow, white, orange, purple and so many different shades in between.”  

Moriarty said her personal favorite plant that is blooming right now is Canarina canariensis, also named the Canary Island Bellflower. 

According to Meghan Moriarty, her personal favorite flower that is currently blooming in the greenhouse is the Carina Canariensis. This flower is also referred to as the Canary Island Bellflower, due to its bell shape. Photo courtesy of Meghan Moriarty of UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses.

“It has a deep yellow to orange color with burgundy veins running through the large bell-shaped flower,” she said. “It is so striking to look at, and in its native home can scramble up to nine feet along the forest floor. “  

The ecology and evolutionary biology greenhouses are open for UConn students and staff who are on-campus this semester. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For those who cannot visit the greenhouses in person, they can follow their Instagram page, @eeb.greenhouse, to stay updated on what is blooming.

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