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Content Any Way U Want It!

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September 21, 2023

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Enter the Bowling Greenhouse

Almost every single day, horticulturist Joe Baker passes from the blustery streets of Bowling Green, passed a miniature desert, into a tiny tropical rainforest and back again.

Baker takes care of the exotic plant life in the campus greenhouse, nestled between the Technology Building and Leroy Avenue.

The greenhouse was built in 1968, getting some of its plants from Ohio State University and other research facilities.

“There’s quite a bit of trading that goes on between houses,” Baker said.

There are currently representatives from 45 to 50 families of plants in the greenhouse.

The building is divided into four separate greenhouses, two used for teaching and two used for student projects, professional research and experiments.

Student projects often focus on how plant growth is affected by different wavelengths of light, different fertilizers and different qualities of water, Baker said.

“I loved [the greenhouse],” said senior environmental policy major Marie Roach. “I think it’s a great place to learn about plants and about horticulture.”

Roach, together with two other students, studied the effects of caffeine on bean and corn plants last spring.

“It’s absolutely indispensable for teaching students about what is important to plants,” said ecology and conservation professor Helen Michaels.

“It’s [also] the best place in the world to be in February,” Michaels said, referring to the heat.

One of the first plants at the greenhouse was a Dioon, which Baker refers to as a “living fossil.” The Dioon, a centerpiece to the campus’s tropical plant house, is one the earliest plants on record, Baker said.

The resident plants come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny Coleus sprouts, barely an inch tall, to the Dwarf Banana tree, towering at anywhere between 12 to 15 feet. Each plant presents its own challenge.

“The desert plants you’d think would be very tough,” Baker said. “In a greenhouse environment sometimes they have trouble.” Baker said the desert plants don’t like the humidity required to keep the adjacent jungle area healthy.

There are no native Ohio plants in the greenhouse, but that doesn’t stop local flora and fauna from inviting themselves in.

“The teaching collection has to be weeded,” Baker said. “It’s like weeding a yard back there. Once they get started, they’re almost always there.”

Families of cardinals have settled in some of the tropical trees, using the nearby Spanish moss as nest material, Baker said.

During the year, about 25 to 30 groups tour the greenhouse, Baker said, including schools and local gardening groups.

Last spring, WBGU helped put together an educational presentation for different local schools. After the presentation, students had the opportunity to call in and ask questions, which would be answered live.

Baker is a finalist judge for the annual summer gardening contest, Beautiful Bowling Green and a gardening instructor in association with Ohio State University.

“It’s good, solid work,” Baker said. “I never regretted a minute.”

Baker enjoys working with plants and “having a hand in” introducing people to the plant kingdom.

“The animal kingdom would not be here without the plant kingdom,” Baker said. He wants others to see plants are “not just a bunch of green stuff.”

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