Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Environmental Maintenance in the Fern Room

Like all of the Conservatory's display rooms and greenhouses, the Fern Room maintains specific environmental conditions. These conditions help create a healthy atmosphere for the fern collection, as well as an interesting and distictive experience for our visitors. The conservatory's fern collection consists of over 100 species of ferns and fern allies. Most of our ferns are native to Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii--places with climates that are very different from the hot, hot summers and frigid winters here in Minnesota. To create the best display for these plants, we rely on a computer system to monitor and maintain environmental standards in the room. The space is cooled in the summer by motorized vents, fans, and a fog system; it is heated in winter with radiant heat from a system of hot water pipes. The ferns not only require specific temperature ranges, but also higher levels of humidity. When the humidity falls below a specified range, mist nozzles automatically turn on to fill the air with additional moisture. Without these controls, it would be impossible for us to display such a large collection of these types of ferns.

We have reached a point where the heat and mist systems we rely on so heavily are in need of maintenance before the cold days of fall and winter. Between the 8th and 18th of September, we will be repairing our heat system and replacing mist nozzles to ensure peak performance for the upcoming winter. While this will temporarily impact access to the room for us and visitors, it will help us be sure we can maintain the best possible conditions for our beautiful collection. We are working daily to keep the plants out of harm's way as the scaffolds go in, allowing workers to complete the installation with minimal impact to the overall display.

The current Fern Room has been open since 2005, replacing a much smaller and less accessable space. Since the opening of this room, we have been able to expand our collection to include larger species, like the towering tree ferns, and some more unique plants, like the staghorn ferns growing up the rock wall.