Chasing Orchids at the Dartmouth Greenhouse
. . . and checking in on Morphy.
In the midst of an Upper Valley winter, you do not have to get on a plane to visit the tropics. You can head to the Dartmouth greenhouse at the Life Sciences Building, 4th floor; the elevator awaits. After a requisite morning walk, I took 30 minutes in the greenhouse as a birthday present to myself.
Orchids in bloom
A student had nabbed the best seat on campus in the anteroom, absorbed in his book as "the sun poured down like honey." (Leonard Cohen). I was on a mission to see the orchids, and to feel that warm mist permeate even a bulky winter coat. I was not disappointed.
Go for the steam.
The tropical room offerings included a plant with baby bananas, a cacao tree, and a goldfish plant. The tiny hallway provided some touch and sniff plants, including geraniums whose crushed leaves smelled like peppermint, or roses. Every plant in the greenhouse is well-labeled, including its common and Latin names, place of origin, and sometimes even its medicinal properties.
True, or fake news?
My last trip to the greenhouse was a few months ago. The line wrapped around the building and people were being fed into the elevator in small groups and at regular intervals. Everyone was there to see--and smell--Morphy, the corpse flower that blooms so infrequently that when it does, it is an event. Morphy had been over 7 feet tall and odiferous (read: really stinky). Morphy's flowering stage lasted only a few days. It then collapsed and went dormant. Today, Morphy is resting in a tub of soil with nothing reaching upward. There is, however, a Morphy baby that came from the original plant.
Morphy (under the soil) is kept company by its baby, or "pup."
When you visit, you may find Kim Delong, the greenhouse manager for the past 5 years. She welcomes questions, and knows the answers.
Greenhouse manager Kim Delong with one of the amaryllises
Put a visit to the greenhouse on your to-do list. It's a new year's resolution that you'll want to keep. It's warm there, and for a few moments, almost not winter.
Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge