The world of plants hides a lot of mysteries. According to recent scientific findings, plants possess around 20 senses for monitoring their surroundings and adapting to living conditions.
They are also able to communicate in complex ways with other living beings. Stefano Mancuso, the director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology in Florence, has said the following about plants: ““Intelligence is the ability to solve problems and plants are amazingly good in solving their problems.”
Mancuso even claims that plants are able to feel sensations and exhibit sleep and play-like actions.
And plants are able to survive and even thrive under almost impossible conditions. This article focuses on such a wondrous plant specimen.
How it all began
David Latimer is neither a magician with green thumbs, nor is he an extremely passionate gardener. He has nevertheless managed to create a wonderful plant ecosystem that functions perfectly inside a sealed 10-gallon glass container.
This retired British gentleman started his amazing terrarium in 1960 “out of idle curiosity”, according to his own words. He simply took a big round glass bottle, filled it with some compost and planted Tradescantia, or spiderwort plant inside it with the help of a wire. He then poured in a little amount of water, sealed the container and curiously monitored what would happen.
This is how he explains his experiment: “At the time the chemical industry had changed to transporting things in plastic bottles so there were a lot of glass ones on the market.
‘Bottle gardens were a bit of a craze and I wanted to see what happened if you bunged the thing up.’
He placed the bottle in a location where it could get a sufficient amount of sunlight and sealed it tightly.
Amazingly, the plant continued to grow and thrive without any water or pruning for the following 54 years.
Mr. Latimer opened the bottle once again in 1972 to water the plant.
What is the scientific explanation behind this remarkable bottle garden?
The plant has produced its own independent ecosystem solely through the process of photosynthesis. The only source from the outside world needed for the plant to keep on living is the light. The plant obtains the energy from the sun to produce its food.
The leaves of the plant take in the sunlight and transform it into energy, or food, to keep it growing. Oxygen is produced through the process of photosynthesis, and it also releases moisture into the bottle. It then condenses on the glass walls and the droplets supply the plant with water.
The aging leaves fall of the plant and decay at the bottom of the glass container. Through means of cellular respiration, the bacteria found in the soil take in the oxygen, which is the plant’s waste material. Carbon dioxide is further created, which the plant needs to produce food.
At night, in the absence of light, the plant inside the sealed container uses this same process to stay alive by decomposing the accumulated nutrients.
What have other people said about this project?
A garden designer and television presenter Chris Beardshaw said: ‘It’s a great example of the way in which a plant is able to recycle… It’s the perfect cycle of life.’
The only input to this whole process has been solar energy, that’s the thing it has needed to keep it going. Everything else, every other thing in there has been recycled. That’s fantastic.’
NASA has expressed a desire to take the plants into the universe for this very reason. “Plants operate as very good scrubbers, taking out pollutants in the air, so that a space station can effectively become self-sustaining. This is a great example of just how pioneering plants are and how they will persist given the opportunity,” Beardhaw explained.
What is going to happen with it in the future?
This garden bottle is a perfect illustration of how nature recycles substances to sustain life. And everybody could create their own sealed gardens using different kinds of plants.
David Latimer intends to give the plant to the Royal Horticultural society if his children do not show interest to take care of it in the years to come.