San Francisco State UniversityA-ZSearchCalendarNeed help?News

SF State News
SF State News Home
SFSU in the News
Events Calendar
Gator Sports News

Expert commentary
Expert Commentary 1
Expert Commentary 2
Expert Commentary 3

For Journalists
News Releases
Faculty Experts
Public Affairs Staff

For Faculty
Submit a News Item
Be an Expert Source
Working with the  Media

SFSU Publications
SFSU Magazine

Public Affairs

Campus greenhouse provides for the classroom

October 9, 2006

Photo of two of the red-leafed plants cultivated in the campus greenhouseThough it houses several strains of English ivy, the SF State campus greenhouse is no ivied tower of isolation. Occupying the northeast corner of the campus quad, the glass structure and its walled outdoor environ, produce biological models, botany experiments and subjects for photojournalism classes.

According to Martin Grantham, the botanist who has managed the greenhouse for the past 10 years, student projects account for 50 percent of the bench space in the greenhouse and 10 percent of the outdoor benches. Faculty projects take up another 5 percent of the space. The rest of the greenhouse is used to cultivate plants for classroom use.

Grantham is well-known in horticultural circles for successfully cultivating plants considered extinct in the wild. His success with Scadoxus nutans, a perennial flowering plant which has disappeared from its strife-torn home in central Africa, was recognized as a "hot plant pick" by the California Horticultural Society this year.

"Just because a plant is rare or even extinct in the wild doesn't mean that it's difficult to grow," Grantham said. "Scadoxus nutans is incredibly easy and bears seeds and flowers year round, so they make useful teaching plants." While conserving the species, Grantham uses such plants to trade with other botanical institutions.

Photo of botanist Martin Grantham holding a Venus flytrapParadoxically, some of the most challenging plants that Grantham has cultivated for the classroom are also the most rampant in nature, such as several species of club mosses. "They grow extremely slowly and take several years to produce the sporangia," said Grantham, who currently has six species doing well. It took five years for one species in the greenhouse to produce its first spores.

Also regularly cultivated are carnivorous plants such as new world and old world pitcher plants, sundews, and butterwort. The Venus flytrap is a popular plant in the public school classrooms where SF State graduate students teach as part of the SEPAL project.

Corpse plants, named for the scent of their bloom said to smell like a rotting corpse, are also cultivated at the SF State greenhouse. However, the tall mature plants are stored in a larger greenhouse on another CSU campus.

Students who wanted to learn more about cultivating plants founded Friends of the Greenhouse. Arlene Kennedy, the organization's most recent president, joined the group because there were no horticulture classes on campus.

"I wanted to learn how to pot up, label and care for the plants used in instruction," Kennedy said. "But the best part of the club is how we are developing leadership skills in the process." The Friends manage plant sales that raise funding for guest speakers on plant topics as well as materials and equipment for the greenhouse operation. Because most of the plants in the greenhouse require cutting to maintain growth, there are always plenty of plants for sale.

-- Denize Springer


San Francisco State University

Home     Search     Need Help?    

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132    (415) 338-1111
Last modified October 9, 2006 by University Communications