Burst pipes leave dead plants and destruction at Michigan State University’s Butterfly House and greenhouses

Burst pipes leave dead plants and destruction at Michigan State University’s Butterfly House and greenhouses

EAST LANSING — Dan Polkowski walked Wednesday through Michigan State University’s greenhouses, showing what was left of the January cold snap and winter storm after burst pipes wreaked havoc on the university’s horticultural facilities: a nearly empty room with a few sad plants, many… Some of them were built more than normal and hung for life.

The plants referred to by the greenhouse director at Michigan State University, Najat – barely – after freezing them for up to 10 days. They were more fortunate than many others, which was a loss.

Less than 12% of the plants in two of Michigan State University’s 14 greenhouses survived the cold snap and the lack of warm air circulating in the greenhouses. All 14 greenhouses had damage to the water pipes that help heat the facilities, and there was damage to plants throughout.

The shock can mean that there is not enough food for the larvae in the butterfly house, the lack of fluffy trees for wedding parties and other occasions on the campus, and the decrease in green spaces on the campus known as agriculture and plant life.

The extent of the damage is still being assessed, but studies for students in various majors and annual plant sales will continue, Polkowski said. Events backgrounds in glass houses – which often use peeling trees or other large plants – may remain meager for years with the growth of donations or new scraps. He said that most of the plants in the butterfly house, a popular destination for university campus visitors, may need to be replaced.

“Hundreds of students come to the greenhouses every week, and now they do,” Polkowski said. “The last weekend in February, there was a Greater Lansing Orchid Society show here and we will be able to do that.”

Some of the lost plants and trees will take years to replace.

“A violin sheet? Maybe a toast,” Polkowski said. “I was probably 20 or 25 years old.”

Much of the damage can be recovered fairly quickly. While there are some long -term plants such as fluffy, many plants are grown annually and can be replaced. But many old and well-established plants have disappeared.

It may be possible to propagate it fairly easily, but it could take a decade or more to get mature Ficus plants the size of those that likely died, Polkowski said.

Bolkovsky said that the full greenhouse contains household plants and tropical and modern plants. Because of the broken pipes, the flow of hot water that normally radiates warm air around greenhouses stopped, and temperatures dropped.

The third butterfly greenhouse, which attracted more than 13,000 schoolchildren a year before the coronavirus hit, has many large plants that are dead or potentially dead, and will need some work to be able to support caterpillars again, Polkowski said.

He said none of the missing plants were “crown jewels” but that some had been growing at MSU for decades.

The MSU Music Institute, full of tall sting plants and glamorous green chronics and hosts more than 50 events including weddings every year, is currently a temporary cemetery for some of the longest and oldest greenhouse plants at the university.

How do plants freeze?

Early from the cold wave, on Martin Luther King Junior Day, Bolkovsky received a phone call from a student who works in the greenhouse.

The atmosphere was cold the day before, which was initially returned to below zero temperatures outside the glass greenhouse greenhouse.

But soon it became clear that there are explosive tubes and that the hot water that heats the greenhouses does not heat anything.

Many of the killed plants were not sold at the annual fall plant auction, which focuses on houseplants and succulents. The spring plant sales on April 13 and 14 focus more on vegetables and outdoor gardens since that’s when early vegetables begin to be planted.

Polkowski said the incident could have been worse if it had happened a few weeks later, rather than in early January.

“If it had been now, or March 1, it would have been really bad,” Polkowski said.

Agricultural greenhouses were not the only facilities on the campus that were damaged during cold weather. Also in the middle of January, a defect in the fire extinguishing system in Munn Ice Arena has widespread deployment of water, including office spaces, shooting training zone and team hall.

He said that the gardens may need support from the audience in the near future – by donating cutting or plants to renew their stock – but it is too early to submit a request for help.

“Watch our Facebook page, and we will let you know,” he said.

Contact Mike Ellis at mellis@lsj.com

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