The Biology Greenhouse is a teaching and research facility in the Biology Department. While many plants are grown in the short term for research studies, the permanent collection is used in plant biology classes offered by the Biology Department and for outreach to local schools and the general public.
Throughout the school year, the greenhouse is open for tours during select hours for small groups (see Contact Us for tour hours). For large groups, tours are available year-round only if arranged ahead of time (see Contact Us to book a group tour). Don’t forget to bring your camera!
We also conduct themed tours of the greenhouse showcasing specific plant groups. For instance, during McMaster Wellness Week 2014, we conducted tours showcasing plants that clean the air by removing harmful chemicals and toxins. Our tours are geared towards a variety of age groups including adults, teenagers and children between 5 and 6 years of age. Every summer we are a regular stop for the Venture Camps that run on campus and throughout the year we do numerous tours as part of the Let’s Talk Science outreach program. We have recently expanded our tours to include guided tours of the tropical house, an in-depth introduction to plants with special defenses, that move in response to touch and some that have carnivorous appetites. We also have a special station set up with plants that you can touch – they vary from plants that are soft a fuzz, scaly and bumpy, and some plants that released delicious smelling perfumes.
Courses that use the greenhouse
During the fall term (September to December), the greenhouse is used to grow plants for Bio 2D03, a second year course offered by the Department of Biology focusing on plant biodiversity and biotechnology. At the beginning of the course, students visit the greenhouse and are afforded the opportunity to become familiar with many of the plants in our collection.
As part of the second year Integrated Science program, students also tour the greenhouse and learn about the different kinds of plant defenses used to deter herbivory including both chemical and physical deterrents (such as spines and thorns).
During the winter term (January to April), the greenhouse is used by Bio 3B03, another course offered by the Department of Biology that focuses on plant physiology. For this course, corn plants are grown hydroponically in nutrient solutions and students are responsible for measuring the plants and determining what nutrients are lacking from their plants based on the plant phenotype.
An archeology course, Anthro 3K03 uses the greenhouse to allow students to connect the archeological materials from their labs with their plant origins.
The McMaster Biology Greenhouse provides graduate and undergraduates students the opportunity to conduct plant studies outside of the lab and during the winter months. During the summer months plants are grown on benches using ambient light but in the winter, artificial lights are used to enhance light availability.
Past studies in the greenhouse have focused on kin recognition responses of plants grown with both maternal (kin) and non-maternal (stranger) plants. This past summer a competition study involving the growth of Brassica oleracea cultivars (kale, collards, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi and savoy cabbage) was conducted to examine the fitness consequence of competitive plant traits.
Currently, we are growing three kinds of plants for use in maintaining an insect population. the first two are for Dr. Rosa da Silva for use in undergraduate research projects. The flat white bean plants for the brown marmorated stinkbugs and English ivy for the Indian stick insects. We are also growing tobacco plants to maintain an aphid population for Dr. Chad Harvey.
Two to three times a year, we sell plants that the volunteers have propagated for a suggested donation. The donations are used to enhance the collection and buy good insects to manage pests.
Admission is free, but we welcome donations to help improve our plant collection and help our integrated pest management program.