Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cacti (oh my!) and more at the UT Greenhouses

Last week I joined a group from Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST) in touring the research greenhouses at The University of Texas at Austin.  GVST gives scholarships annually to a horticulture student at UT and Texas A&M.  When our UT scholarship recipient for this past school year invited us to tour the research greenhouses we headed up the road to Austin.  It was worth the trip and then some.  I managed to edit my photos down to way too many so I'll break this tour into two posts.

First let's meet Garrett Flores who is in the class of 2017 and already has a job in his field back home in San Antonio.  He'll be researching horticultural uses for recycling coffee grounds by the ton for a local company.  Congratulations Garrett!

Photo by Karen Stamm, GVST
The greenhouses sit atop The Welch Chemistry building on the main campus.  We started off with the research rooms, but for this first post I'll stick to the most popular room--the cacti collection.

The carefully maintained collection has been here for decades and is so extensive they still trade plants with public gardens like the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California.

Serious spikiness on the lower right.

Cacti skyline, campus skyline.

Garrett describing the habits of the Welwitschia plant to GVST President Laura Rogers.   A tall pot accommodates long flop-eared leaves.

It's blooming!

A surprising number of plants were in bloom during our visit.

It's a very crowded space so occasional help is needed to keep the plants upright and the aisles clear.

Tiny barrel cacti from seed show research work in progress.

There must be an agave in here...there it is!  I only saw one-- Agave Victoria reginae.

The aftermath of propagation also apparent.

Haworthia truncata which grows mostly underground in its native Africa to conserve energy and water.  The tops of the leaves are translucent like little greenhouse windows to allow light in for photosynthesis.

A few overviews for perspective.

An aloe headed for daylight.

It would take days to take it all in!

New greenhouses have been built on campus so both the standing collections like this one and the research projects will be moving soon.  Currently the greenhouses are open by appointment for educational tours.

If you'd like to join future GVST field trips, check out the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST) website and sign up for email notifications.  GVST holds gardening classes on the third Monday of each month from noon to 3pm.  The classes are free and open to the public, we do request a $5 donation to help with expenses.  No dues, no required hours or attendance--just a interest in learning about gardening.  For more information see the link.


  1. How cool! And nice of Garrett to show you around, that must have been an awesome and informative tour! Thanks for sharing your pictures!

    1. We give these scholarships every year. Garrett is an awesome guide and we wish him the best as he moves on to a new phase.

  2. What an impressive collection! Thank you and Garrett for sharing the wonders of the greenhouse. Can you imagine moving all of those plants?

  3. I have seen Welwitschia growing wild in the Namib desert, and in the Kirstenbosch Conservatory. That is an interesting and clever solution to grow it chimney pot style.

    Today I read this about caffeine pollution -

    1. How wonderful that you've seen these, I'd love to see such amazing plants in their native habitat.

      I'll forward that caffeine story to Garrett. Where all that caffeine ends up should be a consideration in their research.


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