Greenhouse receives donation of 63 varieties of succulents, cacti

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Due to a generous donation, Utah State University’s greenhouse is now filled with 63 different varieties of succulents and cacti. USU student Nathan Staker donated his succulents and cacti to the university because his collection was getting so big that he had nowhere to keep them throughout the winter.

The plants will be used for educational purposes in the biology department.

“My hopes were that I could improve upon USU’s collection, and give students the opportunity to see the uniqueness of the vast world of succulents and cacti,” Staker said. “I hope that the students will be able to propagate new plants and sell them for club use and/or other teaching opportunities.”

USU’s greenhouse manager, Marianne Harris, said that the biology greenhouse, built in the mid 1960s, serves as an important teaching resource for the biology department. The plant specimens are used in numerous teaching labs and offer students an opportunity to study a wide array of plant life.

“The biology greenhouse appreciates the recent cacti and succulent donation made by Nate Staker,” Harris said. “These plants will serve as a wonderful addition to the teaching collection.”

The biology department from the university’s college of science has a wide variety of students. Biology students and those looking to go on to medical school are all part of the program.

“I started taking general biology classes at USU, and it was something I really enjoyed,” said Makenna Johnson, a senior majoring in biology at USU. “I loved the material and found it very interesting. I wouldn’t say I am a natural biologist, but my love for the subject made me want to study it more and I was doing a lot better in my biology classes than in some of my other classes.”

Staker’s donation will now contribute to the education of many biology students.

Staker’s love for plants started when he was younger. His parents and grandparents grew beds of succulents, and he learned at a young age that these plants were a great perennial that needed very little water.

“At the age of 17, I began working at Willard Bay and Gardens in Box Elder County. There they had many different succulents in their nursery,” Staker said. “As part of my discount I was able to take home one variety of every perennial. Here is where my hoarding of plants began, in 2009.”

Staker said when he had seen them for sale at the nursery, he was drawn to them by all the colors, shapes and even a few of the names.

“It seemed like they were a kind of sea coral but on land,” Staker said. “And so my collection began — many of them were started from cuttings and quite a few were purchased.”

To learn more about the Biology Greenhouse, visit: www.biology.usu.edu/htm/research/greenhouse.

— jillian.mccarthy@aggiemail.usu.edu