Wednesday, 7 May 2014


ecosystem in bottle

This miniature ecosystem has been thriving in an almost completely isolated state for over 40 years, in that time it has received water twice.

In 1960, David Latimer planted this spiderwort plant by lowering a single seed by wire into a pile of compost and giving it a pint of water. In 1972, he gave it another pint of water and tightly sealed the carboy shut as an 'experiment'.

Having access to light through the glass, it continues to photosynthesize. The water builds up on the inside of the bottle as condensation and then drips back down on the plants in a miniature version of the water cycle. As leaves die, they fall off and rot at the bottom producing the carbon dioxide and nutrients required for more plants to grow.

It has occupied the same spot under his stairs in Cranleigh, Surrey for 27 years. He rotates it every now and then so it receives light evenly from a nearby window.

In a beautiful example of a closed but functional ecosystem, David Latimer has grown a garden sealed inside of a giant glass bottle that he has only opened once since he started it almost 54 years ago.

Latimer planted the garden on Easter Sunday in 1960. He placed some compost and a quarter pint of water into a 10-gallon glass carboy and inserted a spiderwort sprout using wires. In 1972, he opened the garden again to add a bit of water. With that one exception, the garden has remained totally sealed – all it needs is plenty of sunlight!

It might seem strange to some that a totally sealed garden would thrive like this, but it’s not – the garden is a perfectly self-sufficient ecosystem. The bacteria in the compost break down the dead plants and break down the oxygen given off by the plants, turning it into the carbon dioxide that the plants need to survive. The bottle is an excellent micro version of the earth as a whole.

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