At the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens we were able to go into two greenhouses, the tropical house and the aquatic house. Both of the greenhouses are very humid and warm which is very opposite from the New York weather at the moment. “Another term for a greenhouse is “forcing structure” which is an artificial environment in which plants are forced to grow despite the harsh outside climate. (How does a greenhouse work?)
Greenhouses operate on the “greenhouse effect”. The sun shoots short-wave energy through the transparent material that the house is made out of and gets absorbed by the materials inside the greenhouse (plant leaves, the floors, and the sides). This causes heat and warmth on the inside and the short-wave energy turns into long wave energy. Very little of the long wave energy gets to escape and most of it gets locked inside. This is why it’s so warm and humid inside all the time.
“In order for the greenhouses to aid in the growth of the plants the environment has to be at a certain temperature (for example vegetables need a temperature of at least 40 degrees and a maximum of 90), and the amount of sunlight needed has to range from 4-8 hours daily depending on the type of plants” (How does a greenhouse work?). When the plants grow this causes heat and humidity to build up. Some greenhouses have vents and fans that bring the humidity levels down, transfer the gases around, and keep the air refreshed. Since these plants are in a different environment than what they are conformed to we are basically mimicking that environment and using the sun to do so. The sun is being used to produce the heat and humid needed but without the translucent panels the sunlight wouldn’t be able to get through.
Greenhouses like those at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are also microcosms of how gases like carbon from burning fossil fuels trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. The greenhouse exemplifies how greenhouse gases work in the Earth’s atmosphere and has long been one of the culprits of climate change. A big difference is Earth doesn’t have a layer of glass surrounding it. Gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, trap heat just like the glass roof of a greenhouse traps energy. But when greenhouse gases are in overabundance and are trapped, they cause the planet to get warmer, impacting the climate and weather.
There were many different varieties of plants in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden greenhouses. I saw coffee, tamarind, and even plants with an interesting name like Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.
Tiger Orchid at the Aquatic House at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. https://www.bbg.org/news/tiger_orchid_blooms
In the Aquatic House I saw the Tiger Orchid (Grammatophyllum speciosum Blume). It is located around Southeast Asia and is usually found growing below large trees in hot, humid tropical rainforests. “Their cylindrical pseudobulbs can grow up to 8.2 long and each raceme can grow up to 10 feet, can bear up to 80 flowers, each up to four inches yellow colored with maroon or dark red spots. These flowers bloom once every two to four years, but it can remain in bloom for up to two months. According to the Botanic Garden’s description the one seen in the BBG’s picture above is one has bloomed four times since it came to their collection in 1998. Its most prolific bloom had more than 20 inflorescences, each carrying 120 to 140 flowers and buds. One interesting fact is that a tiger orchid is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s tallest orchid with ones reaching up to 25 feet in height.
A vine in the Warm Temperate House at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Photo taken by City Tech Photography student Andrew Chen
I’ve never been in a greenhouse before so this was a new and interesting experience for me. I was able to see plants of items that I use in my everyday life such as coffee and mangoes.
It’s very interesting how greenhouses operate because they bring different species of plants together and basically mimic and create an environment for them that works. These plants cannot survive in the New York weather because at the moment it is cold and dry. The sunlight is very helpful in administering the heat into the greenhouse and the panels make sure the heat stays trapped inside. It allows planters to plant certain things that they usually can’t plant here because of the unsuitable seasons.