FlashBack 1996

The Greenhouse Effect

State News MS&U Writer

About $5 million is needed to save the Botany Greenhouse and Butterfly House from future plans of deconstruction. But in spite of this threat, the plant fanatics and dirt lovers at the greenhouse are shoveling their energy toward maintaining the everyday essentials and its role as a multi-useful student events center.

The greenhouse is known in communities across the state for its extensive tours and, by a few lucky MSU students, for its inexpensive plant store. But many don't know about the stuff going on after regular hours. The greenhouse frequently hosts drum circles, jazz concerts, poetry readings, dance events and even a couple of weddings.

Organizing all these stimulating plant party events is John Mugg, whose paragraph-long title is simplified to manager of the greenhouse.

The entomology graduate student and self-described 30th-grader said he's always in the dirt. He works around the clock, fiddling with his plants and organizing the daily tours, entertainment events and invitations to the public.

"We want everybody to visit the greenhouse and hang out in the tropics or whatever", he said. "But not everybody knows where we're located. We don't even have a sign because we can't afford to buy one. And the MSU map still calls it the Horticultural Greenhouse, which is not right."

The 37-year-old said one of his main goals is to educate people of all ages about the importance of plants as food, medicine, clothing and oxygen sources. Mugg said he's spent a big part of his life designing and establishing the greenhouse and butterfly house since 1983.

"I don't know if I'll be able to tell the children that they can no longer come here," he said.

Although the Botany Greenhouse and Butterfly House may not be around for much longer, Mugg still works hard on all his master plans to conceptualize and improve the entertainment possibilities of the place. Someday Mugg plans to build a stage in a room located next to the butterfly house for aspiring musicians and whoever else wants to get on stage, he said.

Since the plant power people of the greenhouse understand financial difficulty, they charge next to nothing for all greenhouse and butterfly house efforts.

After the Dave Matthews Band concert Sept. 27, the greenhouse will put on another drum circle and post-show party for anyone who wishes to come for only $1 per person.

Many students of entomology, ISB and even Studio Art 110, along with green-thumbed East Lansing residents, consider the simplicity of plants a sort of entertainment in itself. Although the 69-year-old greenhouse has its roots in the crazy climatic state of Michigan, lovers of plants and warm temperatures can spend as much time as they want in the dessert, the rain forest or in the sub-tropic zone just by walking into the next room of the 24,000-square-foot greenhouse and butterfly house.

And temperature isn't the only thing people can feel. The "touchy feely plant" is a big turn-on for many plant purchasers. The hot item, properly identified in Latin as the memosa, goes for only $1 in the greenhouse plant store.

Horticulture sophomore Katie DeVries is a regular customer and was found cruising the aisles at the greenhouse plant store Wednesday specifically looking for the touchy feely. The plant wasn't the only thing on her mind though.

"It's really sad that this place might be torn down. If they're going to destroy the old greenhouse to build a more modern one, it's understandable. It just better not become a site for a parking lot," she said.

Then added on a lighter note, "But at least I got this cool fold-up plant."

The best way to help save the Botany Greenhouse and Butterfly House is to check it out. It's the building that looks like a greenhouse, located next to Student Services and Old Horticulture Building. It has windows painted with white wash to help prevent the green house effect. People have used their fingers to write silly messages on the windows. Take a tour, drink a nice cup of coffee or purchase a plant from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.