Fun facts

If these glass walls could talk . . .

Fun facts about the greenhouse and the plants within

When was the greenhouse built? How many species of plants are growing in the greenhouse? Why do we call our corpse flower "Wally"? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more!

When was the greenhouse built?

Construction of Jordan Hall (now the Biology Building) and the greenhouse was completed in 1955.  A dedication was held June 6-9, 1956.

Jordan Hall greenhouse, ca. 1955. Courtesy of IU Photo Archives, Image #P0072310
Jordan Hall greenhouse and Jordan Hall, June 20, 1955. Courtesy of IU Photo Archives, Image #P0046317
Jordan Hall greenhouse, November 14, 1955. The building immediately west (right) of the greenhouse is Alpha Hall, a dormitory built in 1906 and razed in 1961. Courtesy of IU Photo Archives, Image #P0046318
The view is from the east looking west across the north end of the Sunken Garden in 1943. The building at right is one of the houses that used to stand along Forest Place where Biology Building and Ballantine Hall are today. The limestone building seen through the trees at left is the east end of Myers Hall. The cars between Myers Hall and the Sunken Garden are part of a parking lot that used to be where most of Biology Building now stands. Photo courtesy of IU Photo Archives, Image #P0078222. Scanned from old Forest Hall scrapbook/photograph album.
The view of the Sunken Garden on this Albertype Company postcard published by the Indiana University Bookstore sometime after 1936 is from the southwest looking toward the northeast. Goodbody Hall can be seen in the distance. Image courtesy of IU Photo IU Archives, Image #P0022922.
An art class at the Sunken Garden, April 29, 1942. IU art classes also visit the Biology Building greenhouse. Photo courtesy of IU Photo Archives, Image #P0037696

A river runs through it

In the early 1900s, a limestone quarry was converted into a scenic green space known as the Sunken Garden. Jordan Hall (now the Biology Building) and its greenhouse were built on that space in 1955. A spring that once fed the Sunken Garden pond now feeds a small stream that flows through the dirt floor of the basement beneath the greenhouse rooms—possibly on its way to the Campus River.

Something in common? In its day, the Sunken Garden was known as the Passion Pit. The greenhouse made the list of romantic campus corners in Inside IU's February 2019 "The best places to take your valentine on IU campuses across the state" article. The article punned, "… and let your love grow."

How many species are growing in the greenhouse?

Nearly 800 different species of plants can be seen in the greenhouse.

The hybrid American Wonder Lemon 'Ponderosa' (Citrus limon x) is one of many plants found in our greenhouse.  Photo by Terri Greene, Dec24-2018
Cycas revoluta. Photo by Terri Greene, Mar01-2019

Which is the oldest plant in the greenhouse?

The sago palm (Cycas revoluta)—found in Room P—is believed to be one of the oldest plants in the greenhouse. The plant is rumored to have been growing in an IU Bloomington campus greenhouse since 1910 and transferred to our greenhouse sometime after it was built in 1955.

Sago palm is a common name for many plants grown for a starchy food known as sago. Some are true palms; however, our sago palm is a cycad. Sago from cycads must be detoxified before eaten.

Who's Wally?

"Wally" is the nickname of our Amorphophallus titanum (a.k.a. titan arum, corpse flower). This amazing plant produced its first bloom in 2016. Its stunning inflorescence unfurled on Friday evening, July 29, 2016. Thousands of visitors stood in line for hours over the weekend in order to see Wally.

Learn more

Our corpse flower "Wally" first bloomed in 2016. Photo by Terri Greene, Jul30-2016

Why do we call our corpse flower "Wally"?

Greenhouse staffers dubbed the Amorphophallus titanum (a.k.a. titan arum, corpse flower) "Wally" in honor of Hugh Wallace "Wally" Scales, the first manager of the Jordan Hall (now Biology Building) greenhouse. Scales was largely responsible for collecting plants and building up the teaching collection and conservatory.

Hugh Wallace "Wally" Scales, chief botanical gardener, October 15, 1959. Photo by Elwood Martin "Barney" Cowherd, courtesy of IU Photo Archives, Image #P0050678
A Hardwicke’s woolly bat emerges from its roost in a pitcher plant (Nepenthes species). Photo from "LIVING INSIDE A DEADLY TRAP Woolly bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as roosts" by Caroline R. Schöner and Michael G. Schöner, Bats Fall 2012, Vol. 30, #3

Nepenthes pitchers provide roosts for bats

Scientists have discovered that bats make use of pitcher plant traps in a mutualist sort of way. The woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickii) regularly roosts in Nepenthes hemsleyana traps in the peat-swamp forests of Brunei, Borneo. The bat settles in head first above the digestive fluid in the girdle-like structure immediately above where the trap tapers significantly. It doesn't even use its feet to hold on because it fits so perfectly. This secure roost helps bats avoid detection by predators, and the plant benefits from the nutrients, particulary nitrogen, in the bat feces.

See several species of Nepenthes (sans bats) in Conservatory Room F in the greenhouse.