Friday, July 11, 2008

Water on hot days

On these hot days it can be difficult to stay cool. The gardening staff don't have waterfights or go swimming in the pools even when tempted. We do have to drink lots of water, wear hats and take breaks if necessary.

The plants are at somewhat of a disadvantage. The plants inside the conservatory rely solely on the gardening staff for their water needs. Gardeners water the collections of plants on display by hand. This can take a couple hours in the morning before the general public starts to enter the gardens at 10am.

Two of the display rooms, Tropical Encounters and the Fern Room, have an additional method of cooling which increases humidity in these rooms called meefog. Meefog involves a series of nozzles which add water vapor to the air. In Tropical Encounters these nozzles are placed throughout the exhibit, often near the ground. In the Fern Room these nozzles are on the ceiling. Many visitors who walk through the Fern Room will notice the mist as they walk through this room. Meefog is not a method of watering. The mist does not provide enough moisture to keep the soil wet. It does reduce the rate that water is lost from the fern fronds and helps protect roots from drying out.

In the Fern Room, increasing the humidity is quite important to the health of the plants in that room. The fern collection includes many tropical species that require a higher relative humidity than that which occurs in Minnesota.

Did you know that the tree ferns in the fern room not only have roots in the soil but also have roots on their trunks? The higher humidity helps preserve the health of these plants. In fact, water is an essential part of the fern life cycle. Where flowering plants have pollinators that participate in fertilization of those plants, ferns use water to reproduce. That's something to think about. Reproduction in ferns occurs without flowers on a microscopic level after spores germinate. The result is a new plant, ferns don't produce seeds.