Small Scale Ecosystem Endures In A Bottle For Over 60 Years

By David Thompson, Engagement Manager Australian Institute of Horticulture

When he was 27 years old, UK man David Latimer decided to create a terrarium garden. He took some potting compost and part-filled the jar, then dropped in a common Tradescantia and added some water. Now 87 years old, the terrarium garden is still going strong and has not been opened for more than 40 years!

It is the living definition of a self-sustaining ecosystem, maintaining everything the plant needs to stay healthy and photosynthesise to produce its own foods. With just sunlight, the terrarium ecosystem recycles its plant matter and reuses the water that the plants transpire and condense inside the jar.

David explains that it’s low-maintenance and easy to grow but obviously not very interactive.

“It’s 6ft from a window so gets a bit of sunlight. It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly”, David says.

“Otherwise, it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.”

“It’s actually incredibly dull in that it doesn’t do anything but I’m fascinated to see how long it will last!”, he says.

He hopes to pass on the ‘experiment’ to his grown-up children after he is gone.



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