Rare blooms spring up at U plant sale

The proceeds from the sale will go toward plant biology outreach programs.

Jerret Raffety

The smell of orchids and basil filled the halls on the first floor of the St. Paul Student Center on Monday.

The smell was coming from the fourth annual exotic plant sale, organized by the College of Biological Sciences Greenhouse and plant biology graduate students.

“We’re trying to sell plants that you wouldn’t go to Wal-Mart or Home Depot for,” said Victoria Ranua, a third-year graduate student in the plant biology department.

The proceeds will go toward department graduate student activities and outreach programs, Ranua said.

Plants ranged in price from $3 to $25.

Jodi Kipping-Bjork, the greenhouse manager, said approximately 150 plant varieties were on sale.

Approximately 30 percent of the plants at the sale were grown in the greenhouse by plant biology graduate students, she said.

Many local vendors and distributors brought in cacti, succulent plants, coffee plants, flowers and orchids, Kipping-Bjork said.

The proceeds will also go toward maintaining the permanent plant collection at the greenhouse, she said.

This year, many more exotic plants were purchased especially for the sale, including insect-eating plants such as the Venus flytrap, the Nepenthes and tropical pitcher plants, Kipping-Bjork said.

Another change this year is the sale of heirloom vegetable plants, said Sajeet Haridas, a third-year doctoral candidate in the department of plant biology. The plants are genetically engineered vegetables bred for specific traits, such as taste and disease resistance, he said.

The sale was intended to make available manageable exotic plants for those who don’t have experience with horticulture or access to elaborate equipment, Haridas said.

“Our target clientele is people in dorms and apartments.”

Haridas said, “People want houseplants that you can leave home and forget.”

The sale had instructions posted for building a terrarium that simulates the humidity some tropical plants available at the sale are used to.

Some said they were attracted to the sale because of the variety.

Lucy McKay, a communications and media technician for the St. Paul Student Center, said she stopped at the sale because she was looking for plants for her garden and home.

“I find that they’re just healthy plants, high-quality plants,” McKay said. “I’d rather support the University than some nursery.”

Others were looking for rare plants.

“These succulents are all pretty hard to find, so it’s good to have them here,” said Crystal Passi, a College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences sophomore. “As a horticulturist, this is all very interesting to me.”

The sale continues today at the St. Paul Student Center.