The heat is overpowering as students walk into the naturally lit indoor-outdoor classroom. A forest of plants reflect against the clear glass windows as hints of bright pinks and yellows pop out through the overwhelming shades of green. A nearby white table is placed in the corner for visitors to relax as they absorb the scenery.
Doubling as a classroom and research center for exotic and medicinal plants, the greenhouse extended from the Jeffords science department at Castleton State College has enjoyed use from both students and faculty since the grand opening last year.
Former Castleton professor of science Pat Keller and Middlebury College’s Science Department have donated plants and money to the campus greenhouse.
“The greenhouse’s main purpose was to provide students with all year-round access to plant research,” said Andy Vermilyea, an assistant professor of chemistry at Castleton. “Our plan was to create a community college garden to bring the community together while giving students access to new courses and research opportunities.”
Castleton has added six new courses to the curriculum since the development of the greenhouse.
The construction of Castleton’s greenhouse has also brought about a new organization on campus. The Greenhouse & Garden Club now sports 25 students and faculty.
Mary Droege, manager of the greenhouse and founder of the Greenhouse Club & Garden Club, is responsible for acquiring new plants for the members to research.
“We like adversity in our plants. We have adaptations of different types, economic plants, such as tea, coffee, various foods, dry, aquatic, Jurassic, and medicinal and exotic plants as well,” she said moments after demonstrating a Venus Fly Trap’s quick survival technique as its sharp leafs close around a pencil.
The Greenhouse & Garden Club also hold plant sales to sell old plants for money to buy new ones.
“Plants are interesting and we want students to be aware of that,” said Droege. “Many mistake the greenhouse as a view to walk by rather than a place to visit. Room 136 [the entrance into the greenhouse] is always open.”
Adam Boshart, a Castleton junior, isn’t tricked by the greenhouses’ appearance and enjoys spending his free time in between classes looking at all the plants.
“I love the greenhouse. It smells like summer in six countries,” he said.
If you are interested in learning more about what the greenhouse has to offer, the Greenhouse & Garden Club meets Thursdays from 12:30-1:30 inside greenhouse.