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The Plant and Wildlife Team built terrariums filled with native plants in the Mortola Library the Monday before Thanksgiving. Students coming through had the opportunity to build a small garden for their dorm room while learning the importance of planting native species. Most were pleasantly surprised at the beauty available to them in their own backyard.


A few questions and comments were raised during the event by attendees:

Where were the cacti?

These don’t look like terrarium plants.

Where are the flowers?

So, where were the cacti?

Species of cacti are found mainly in the Southwest of the United States, and even so are often imported from other countries for garden planting. While not necessarily invasive, these non-native species thrive on dry hot air and don’t survive well in New York outdoor gardens. Additionally, the money spent on imported plants supports the companies that also import aggressively invasive species.

These don’t look like terrarium plants.

Plants typically attributed to Do-It-Yourself terrariums are sold in unmark containers at plant depots with little value placed on each species’ character or ecological benefit or detriment. They are sold because they need little care and maintain a constant aesthetic value.

Which leads us to our final question: Where are the flowers?

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New York State is not located in a tropical climate.  It is considered humid continental and experiences four seasons with temperatures ranging from below freezing to above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Plant species have adapted to this variable range by following a life cycle. Therefore, the plants usually only flower for a portion of the year.

Instead of finding our natural options inadequate, we must see the complex beauty in our environment. The Hudson Valley is a dynamic region with an endless bounty of natural splendor, long celebrated by poets, artists, and musicians. We do not need to import our importance.