If you’re looking for a new place to study on campus, or just somewhere to clear your head, then Binghamton University’s E.W. Heier Teaching & Research Greenhouses are the perfect spot. The current greenhouse complex opened in 1981 and has continued to impress the community since then with its diverse collection of more than 6,000 exotic plants, representing over 1,200 distinct species.
The greenhouse offers students, staff, faculty and community members a chance to explore four different botanical biomes — all for free. The different biomes — tropical, desert, cool temperate and warm temperate — allow plants from around the globe to flourish right here in Vestal.
Each biome room in the facility is home to different plant species that fit the environment. When you enter the warm temperate room, you can hear running water and as you walk around, you’ll discover a pond filled with fish. The warm temperate room has a number of cycads — stout plants with large, stiff evergreen leaves — and BU’s greenhouse has a larger collection of cycads than Kew Gardens, the world-renowned botanical gardens in England. As you walk through the various spaces, the temperature difference is apparent, especially as you enter the tropical room and experience its humidity and overgrown plants.
The primary function of the greenhouse is to educate students and the community, and many of BU’s classes utilize the greenhouse for teaching purposes, including courses in biology, botany, ecology and art.
Lisette Rodriguez, a junior majoring in biology, has visited the greenhouse for the course Biology 117: Intro to Organisms and Populations Biology.
“I think [the facility] is an underrated feature that BU has to offer and many students don’t know about it or don’t appreciate it enough,” Rodriguez said. “I think my favorite biome is the tropical environment just because it reminds me of being away on vacation.”
The greenhouse also provides an escape from everyday stressors, and Scott Hickerson, a senior majoring in biology, says he visits the greenhouse to unwind.
“The greenhouse is one of the few places on campus that I can get away from the crowds of people,” Hickerson said. “It’s a great place to get in some last-minute studying, call home or just relax while looking at some plants that I had no idea even existed.”
Many of the employees who care for the plants are work-study students and volunteers, according to Greenhouse Assistant Josh DeMarree.
DeMarree said he has been interested in plants since he was a child and had his first garden space at his grandparents’ home. Once he realized he wanted to be botanist, he earned an associate degree in horticulture and went on to get his bachelor of science in botany. His passion for plants is contagious.
“My current job allows for me to work with and engage people in plants and how they are important and valuable,” DeMarree said. “In my opinion, there is a huge problem. People through the internet are given access to the entire world, but they know so little about what’s out in their front yard. Our collection allows visitors to travel around the globe and back in time.”
The greenhouse is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a small plant sale during the week of Oct. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.