Sowing Experiences Across Fields of Students

Victor Collaso
Many more varieties will be available at NEIU’s biannual plant sale

NEIU is home to a variety of different natural habitats. Many are aware of the peace labyrinth or the community garden, but what about the banana tree? The banana tree is just one of the many greeneries of the biology department’s greenhouse.

Alexis Bellinger, a current volunteer at the greenhouse, said that the criterion to join is simply to have an interest in plants. Although being a CMT major, she loves being around plants and working with her hands. She also said that the work is very relaxing and calming.

“It’s open to everybody, you can go walk in there during a lunch break,” she said. Bellinger has been involved for a semester now and first heard about the greenhouse during a biannual plant sale the department holds every semester.

Bellinger bought a plant and was given a white piece of paper informing students of volunteer opportunities at the greenhouse. However, it was a requirement for a biology class that allowed her to finally visit and was encouraged to participate.

Creating eco-friendly fertilizer and caring for aloe vera plants are some of the few things Bellinger has been able to take from her experience and urges other students to come and learn about the environment.

“It’s great to give back, and to give back to Northeastern,” she said, adding that working with plants has been rewarding for her. As a volunteer her daily duties are to clean, to re-pot, and to learn how to take care of each plant. “I never know what we are going to do when I go in there,” said Bellinger. She explained that every day she works at the greenhouse she learns something different.

Joel Olfelt the current curator of the greenhouse said that not all plants have been catalogued but that there are roughly 1,000 plants or more present. The department is currently working on organizing the greenery and making space for more.

Olfelt said that the department wants to continue to keep the greenhouse as an open learning environment for the NEIU community. It is also currently used to help aid classes in projects and a number of faculty projects.

“We are taking modest steps to update,” said Olfelt. The department currently employs a student for basic caretaking. Other workers, including volunteers, are working to reorganize the greenhouse. Olfelt said that the greenhouse is about 50 years old and they want to keep up with technology, as well as make room to create new technology.

A few students and staff have experimented over the years with plants and irrigation systems that Olfelt wants to continue to support. The department wants to plan to collaborate with other institutions in order to further develop the greenhouse and to help find a network for research. “This is all dream stuff,” said Olfelt and wants to continue to hold high goals and move forward for the greenhouse.

The biology department has its plant sale every semester to help provide equipment for plants, biology courses and the greenhouse.  This year the plant sale will be on Nov. 19 in the Student Union and will provide a variety of plants.