DePauw’s mini-paradise hopes to attract more than biology students


The greenhouse, located in Olin, houses a variety of
plants from around the world, including these Fan Palm trees
in the tropical section of the facility.

While the temperatures continue to drop here in Greencastle, students can experience desert, temperate and tropical climates by simply walking a few feet.

DePauw University’s greenhouse, located on the west side of the F.W. Olin Biological Sciences Building, houses plants from around the world and is open to students during regular hours of operation.

The greenhouse was installed alongside Olin in 1993, taking the place of the old greenhouse that lived behind Harrison Hall.

Though from the outside the greenhouse appears small, inside it is nothing but. Plants line the entire inside of the facility and the amount is almost overwhelming. There are plants of all sizes and color and it seems like a different world entirely than the snow-covered landscapes of Hanna Street just outside. Many of the plants tower high above the floor, while others run along the ground and at eye-level.

In the center of the greenhouse stands the oldest plant in the collection, which had to be moved from the old greenhouse to the new location. It is a cycad, a prehistoric plant resembling a palm tree.

The cycad is older than the building.

Plants in the greenhouse vary greatly because the climate is computer-controlled and allows for the three climates mentioned above to all be housed under one roof, separated by dividing walls.

The greenhouse houses several interesting plants including those that move when touched along with carnivorous plants, the most peculiar being the voodoo lily. It attracts specific insects by giving off an odor similar to that of rotting meat.

“It makes a big and very stinky flower that smells worse than a barnyard,” said Professor of Biology Dana Dudle.

Others include pitcher plants, sundews and some flytraps. The flytraps are currently living in a refrigerator to simulate winter.

Fruit-bearing plants are also prevalent and include vanilla orchids, bananas, papayas and sugar cane. All of these must be hand-pollinated.

While it is open to all students, biology classes often utilize the unique environment as well.

“We use it mainly in our intro classes, with the plant biology class surely going in there,” said Dudle. “I have often had students grow independent projects in the greenhouse as well.”

The greenhouse isn’t only used in the biology classes though. Many art professors bring their students to the greenhouse to draw the different types of plants not found anywhere else in the Putnam County area.

It is for this reason that college students and kids in the area find this hidden gem fascinating and the greenhouse often hosts field trips from local schools.

“There are almost always flowers in there which is nice,” said Dudle. “My favorite plant is the Queen of the Night, which is a night-blooming cactus that only blooms in the summer and lasts only one night. They are as big as a dinner plate and they are really cool.”

There are plenty of other plants in the greenhouse to attract students, but Dudle feels the facility is often underutilized and not used by students that may not have had to go into it for class.

Many students aren’t aware of the greenhouse, like first-year Greisy Genao.

“I honestly didn’t know we even had a greenhouse,” said Genao. “But hearing about it makes me really want to go check it out.”

Other students who have been able to explore the greenhouse say it is definitely worth looking into, like sophomore Kainat Akmal.

“I always saw it from outside, but I was so happy I ventured into it one day,” said Akmal. “It’s a great place to just get away, plus I always bring my parents to see it.”

“It’s open to everyone but hard to find, but totally worth it,” said Dudle. “It’s very beautiful and really good for research. I always say it is one of the best undergraduate greenhouses I have been around.”