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Environment and Sustainability

Photo Essay: New Plant Conservatory Opens Its Doors

Professor Jenn Yost, center, stands in a greenhouse at the new Plant Conservatory with two other students, looking at tropical plants.
Written By Nick Wilson // Photos by Joe Johnston

In April, the new Cal Poly Plant Conservatory opened its doors for operation.

The $5 million, 5,000 square-foot, multi-use botanical science facility features living plants that grow in extreme weather conditions — including exotic and rare species.

The conservatory’s greenhouses showcase three distinct growing environments: the warm tropics; a cloud forest; and desert climate. In addition, there is dedicated space for experimental research for urban planning along with labs and offices.

The facility has 2,500 square feet under greenhouse glass and an equal amount of outdoor space. The varied plant collection includes cacao, mahogany, banana, several types of cacti and koa — one of the most valuable hardwoods in the world, a species (acacia koa) that only grows on the Hawaiian Islands.

Ritter and other Cal Poly botany professors have brought back seeds from trips around the world and collected plants for study from other universities and botany experts. Native species common to the Central Coast and a Mediterranean climate also are grown in the facility’s outdoor areas.

“We have a great diversity of plants, including some species that you’d have to travel far and wide to find,” said Matt Ritter, the plant conservatory director, a biological sciences professor and noted national tree expert. “It’s an impressive learning experience with such a wide range of flora right here on campus, and it’s very exciting to be studying strategies toward adding more foliage to the world.”

Cal Poly News recently toured the facility. View more stunning photos below. 


An orchid plant with purple flowers in front of a stark black background.
The varied plant collection at the conservatory includes orchids. 
A green and red pitcher plant photographed on a stark black background.
The conservatory is also home to pitcher plants and other types of carnivorous plants. 

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