The fall colors are fading fast, and native Wisconsin plants are saying goodbye for the year. However, the plants at UW-Superior’s Stanley Oexemann greenhouse are still lively and colorful. The new greenhouse has been home to over one hundred of plants, 99 percent of which are tropical and subtropical.
It took most of the month of May to move the plants into their new home. The caretaker of these unique and colorful plants is Robbye Johnson, who started with the old greenhouse in 1976. She explained that the new greenhouse is taller than the old, which is good for the taller plants. Another advantage is that the new greenhouse isn’t glass, but rather a plastic thermal material, and double walled. Another feature of the greenhouse is the automatic shading which protects the plants from harsh bright light and softens the light, which the plants love and crave.
Greenhouse construction was a part of the Swenson Hall project, which replaced two of UW-Superior’s older buildings, McCaskill and Sundquist. Because the greenhouse was attached to McCaskill there was need for a new greenhouse as well. Nicholas Danz, associate professor of Plant Sciences and Ecology, said “the mechanical equipment was no longer there [McCaskill Hall] to provide power for the greenhouse,” this was the main reason to create this new greenhouse. Tom Fennessey, director of Facilities Management, described the new greenhouse as being slightly smaller than the old house, but more energy and space efficient. The specific cost of the greenhouse construction is hard to know since it was a part of the overall Swenson Hall project but the cost to operate the greenhouse will be lower because of its updated structure and energy efficiency, Fennessey said.
The goal of the new greenhouse is to attract more visitors with its modern design. Visits aren’t limited to natural science students, but open to all students interested in taking in the experience of exotic plants that don’t growing during the traditionally cold fall and winter months. “If the door is open, the greenhouse is open” said Johnson. She is there from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. most weekdays and is available to answer questions about the greenhouse plants. Bring a piece of the greenhouse back home with you, with one of the free plants she has to offer.
The fusion of several different plant fragrances along with the humidity gives the visitor a sense of walking through a tropical garden, something you can’t experience on a regular day in the Northland. It makes for a perfect place to visit, especially in the winter when you feel like you need to escape the snowy, cold weather and feel like you’re somewhere tropical.
Hansen, Fennessey and greenhouse staff worked together to create a short time-lapse video of the greenhouse move. The Stinger has provided a link to the Facebook video below