Growing since 1960, this bottled ecosystem was just watered once in 53 years

by Aadarsh Jain

Growing since 1960, this bottled ecosystem was just watered once in 53 years

April 20, 2021

David Latimer chose to plant a seed in a water bottle in the 1960s, never expecting it to turn into an outstanding case study for an ecosystem. The bottle ecosystem is still growing and is as tough as it can be after more than half a century.

What Is A Bottle Garden?

A bottle garden also called “Terrarium Garden” is a self-contained ecosystem that grows within a closed water bottle thanks to photosynthesis and nutrient recycling by the plants. Light is the only external output that is needed. The plants use the remaining water to get rid of the electrons after storing the light in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). When there is no sunshine, the plant can use a similar cellular respiration mechanism to break down nutrients it has accumulated (nighttime). Water is cycled by being absorbed by plant roots, transpiring into the atmosphere, and then condensing into the potting mix. This is the start of a new cycle that will continue to repeat itself.

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David Latimer and His Little Bottle Ecosystem

Latimer planted his terrarium garden on an Easter Sunday of 1960. He used wires to insert a spiderwort sprout, which is not usually an indoor plant, into a 10-gallon glass flask with some compost and a pint of water. He reopened the plant terrarium in 1972 to add some water. The garden has remained sealed with the exception of that one exception – all it needs now is plenty of sunshine!    The bottle garden has developed into its own mini-ecosystem. Despite being cut off from the rest of the planet, it can still photosynthesise, which is the mechanism by which plants turn sunlight into the energy they need to grow.

The bacteria in the compost eat the dead plants and break down the oxygen they emit, converting it to carbon dioxide, which the plants use for photosynthesis. The bottle is a fantastic miniature depiction of the planet as a whole, as well as a perfect representation of various ecosystem forms.


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