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UW Biology Greenhouse featured in Arboretum Foundation's Winter 2024 Bulletin

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 - 11:00

The UW Biology Greenhouse was featured in two articles in the Winter 2024 edition of the Arboretum Foundation's Bulletin. The first article features lovely photos of the Greenhouse captured by Arboretum Foundation member Niall Dunne, and the second article gives background on the history of the Greenhouse, as shared by Walt Bubelis, a retired Edmonds College professor of horticulture, “Arboretum Bulletin” editorial board member, and former UW Botany Greenhouse worker.

Link to the Winter 2024 Arboretum Foundation Bulletin.

Excerpt from Bubelis's story:

While pursuing my Masters in Botany at the University of Washington in the late 1960s, I supplemented my income by working part-time in the Botany Greenhouse under the direction of Jim Nishitani (see the Fall 2022 “Arboretum Bulletin”). The greenhouse was similar in size to the new structure but had more internal partitions. A couple of bays were for display purposes, but the others were for research projects conducted by individual professors.

I remember, for instance, Dr. Bastiaan Meeuse’s bay had a number of ground-level beds bordered by concrete walls in which he grew heat-loving plants such as Sauromatum and Strapelia. At the end of a project, he gave away extra strapelias to anyone who either had a wry sense of humor, like himself, or was foolish enough not to realize that these carrion flowers emitted very foul odors (attractive to pollinating  flies). The succulent plants and their blossoms are indeed striking but not at all suitable for small apartments!

I learned a number of tasks to help run the greenhouse, ranging from the menial (such as scrubbing clay pots clean with scraps of burlap) to more specialized ones (such as steam-sterilizing  Dr. Meeuse’s soil beds and setting pollination cages for Dr. Art Kruckeberg’s research on the crucifer Streptanthus). A project that got me outside was collecting various species of slugs, bringing them back to the greenhouse, and feeding them until Dr. Gordon Orion of the Zoology Department was ready to start his experiments. Dr. Orion studied how slugs reacted to different levels of nicotine. To contain the slugs inside the greenhouse, we constructed large, circular, metal moats that restricted the slugs to an island in the center.

My work at the UW Botany Greenhouse later helped me set up—from scratch—the greenhouses at Edmonds College, where I taught horticulture for some 41 years. I got that position after Dr. Kruckeberg told me that the then-new college needed someone to teach basic horticulture. Originally, I only taught part-time and at night. As the program grew, I hired various part-timers myself, one of them being Doug Ewing. Eventually, Dr. Kruckeberg notified me that Jim Nishitani was retiring, and the Botany Greenhouse needed a new manager. I suggested Doug, who eventually got the job and stayed on there until his retirement—about the same time as plans were taking place to construct the new Biology Greenhouse facility.

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