Today, boyfriend and I visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. What does this have to do with you, and your houseplants? Well, aside from the amazing aquatic plant life...
...there were plenty of tropical species on display. The same tropical species, in fact, that you can grow in your living room! From every continent, the Shedd Aquarium has brought in plants to compliment their animal life. It's a great opportunity to see your favorite home or office specimen in a recreation of its original habitat. This dart frog vivarium, for instance, houses several well-known decorative plants. Of course, some moron kid had to go and stand in my picture. I know what you're thinking... children at a fun and interactive museum?!? How revolting. Those were my sentiments as well.
Many of us who love tropical plants are familiar with the use of these specimens as vivarium subjects... herpetology-supply websites like Black Jungle are popular sources for exotic plants. But you know, you really don't have to be a reptile hobbyist to enjoy terrariums. As with the old-fashioned Wardian case, terrariums are perfect for displaying dazzling tropical plants that need high humidity levels.
The truly surprising thing about the vivariums at the Shedd Aquarium is the the simplicity of their construction. Straying from complex recipes, the Shedd uses a simple three-layer system to provide circulation and drainage. In my mind, this setup would need regular dismantling and cleaning, because it lacks certain ingredients that inhibit algae. The need for good hygiene is only increased by the fact that there is animal life in these vivaria. But hey, these guys have been doing this sort of thing WAY longer than I. So, here endeth my critique.
Plenty of other household favorites can be found amidst the fishy life...
... although certain species eluded me. Does anyone recognize the bronzy plant with the venation in this picture (just above the water line)? My guesses include caladium and syngonium, but beyond that I haven't a clue.
With such a sea of classic plants spread before me (no pun intended), it makes me realize why pond gardens are so very popular in the southern states. Given the right zone, it wouldn't be difficult to replicate the Amazon river or lake Malawi in your own backyard! Of course, this raises questions about the ethics of harboring invaders species... but that's a topic for another post.
All told, the Shedd Aquarium is freaking awesome. Take a day trip whenever you can, to see your favorite houseplants in action! As active as they get, in any case.