Community Open Event May 2013

Tour

The first group of local residents looking around the glasshouse.

On Monday 20th May we held what might be considered the official opening of the Tropical Biodiversity Glasshouse.  The University of Reading community open event provided a means for both the Harris Garden and our greenhouse to be shown to local residents.  Hosted by the Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell, around 70 residents attended along with some students who had helped develop the greenhouse infrastructure.

The tour included demonstrations of how difficult it is to make water hyacinth (Eicchornia crassipes) sink, how you convert the Papyrus plant to a substance to write on, how nice and warming is the smell of Aframomum melegueta, that Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) survives without any roots and that sugar cane is not very sweet if it is growing in dull British weather.

Papyrus plant being cut to demonstrate how papyrus paper is made.

Papyrus plant being cut to demonstrate how papyrus paper is made.

The stately clump of Papyrus caused some interest from visitors who were curious to understand how a large grassy looking thing could be turned into writing paper.  Other plants looking good at the moment are the large coffee plant, which is flowering every night, the Manihot glaziovii and Carica papaya plants that have doubled in height in the last month and the scotch bonnet chilli peppers which are flowering and fruiting with profusion hidden away under bigger crops.

Now the visit is over we can start pruning and dividing plants that have outgrown their space.  The plant material can be dug into the soil to compost and keep the soil healthy.

About Alastair Culham

A professional botanist and biologist with an interest in promoting biological knowledge and awareness to all.
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