UI Greenhouse provides students and community members a place for plant interests

The UI Greenhouse sits on top of Biology Building East, giving students a place to develop research, observe plants, and express their passions for plant life.


Nick Rohlman

Greenhouse assistant manager Majd Moubarak laughs in the greenhouse on the roof of the Biology Building East on Friday, Nov. 30. Moubarak, a UI senior, also researches plants.

Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

Sitting at the top of Biology Building East, the University of Iowa Greenhouse has provided students and community members a space to study and follow their interest in plants.

Ray Tallent, who has been the Greenhouse manager for approximately 10 years, along with assistant and UI senior Majd Moubarak, tend to the plants in the Greenhouse and maintain the space’s temperature. There also are a substantial number of volunteers who help around the facility with watering and pest treatment.

“We grow the plants for education, of course, but generally, we are able to offer field trips and different experiences in the Greenhouse,” Tallent said.

There are currently seven rooms, some of which have themes with the plants. Four rooms hold both student and volunteer plants, and the remaining three are for teaching and public enjoyment. The Greenhouse has more than 200 plants and can be toured throughout the year.

The Greenhouse supports the research of many UI students on a plant biology track or interested in learning more. Moubarak uses the Greenhouse for her research and uses the hands-on experience she has received through working for the Greenhouse.

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“I get to water the plants all day long and observe the changes in their growth,” Moubarak said.

Many of the plants have come from various countries over the years, some having spent more than 50 years with the university. Although the Greenhouse location has changed many times, the plants have wound up in the central location atop Biology Building East. Seed exchanges, purchases, and other avenues through sellers and other institutions have been used to obtain plants, Tallent said.

The enjoyment, the aesthetics, and more all filter in the overall mission of the Greenhouse. It serves to educate, provide public enjoyment, and give a method of research for the students at the UI.

The Greenhouse holds many favorites for both Tallent and Moubarak. However, there are many plants relating to food — coffee beans, lemons, avocados, bananas — that have a special place in Moubarak’s heart.

“We have been known to sample,” she said.

The Greenhouse allows students to take plants they desire with permission from staff.

Many students use the Greenhouse for their research or personal enjoyment. The UI Gardeners clubhouses many plants in the Greenhouse.

“I don’t do this for them,” Tallent said. “This is their own gig. They grow hydroponic plants, with no soil involved.”

A very prominent plant the UI Gardeners club uses in the Greenhouse is kale.

A graduate student teaching Elements of Art for non-majors, Alexis Beucler, uses the Greenhouse every week to inspire her students in their work.

“I take my students to the Greenhouse numerous times a week to inspire them,” Beucler said. “It’s an investigation — these ‘organic’ places are more interesting to discover shape, color, and texture for their art. I hope that through the Greenhouse they develop a greater appreciation for natural spaces.”

Beucler has her students use the Greenhouse in partnership with natural museums to develop art based on what they see. She will display her students’ artwork from the Greenhouse in Art Building West this upcoming week.

“Not many people know we’re up here, but we definitely are open to visitors and new faces,” Tallent said.