Big naked trunk in University Circle delineates the garden

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CLEVELAND – Cleveland Botanical Garden has taken a major step in the construction of The Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse with the installation of a 40-foot tall artificial tree trunk at its construction site in University Circle.

According Brian Holley, director of Cleveland Botanical Garden, The Great Cloud Forest Tree for which the trunk has been created is a representation of a “strangler” fig tree. It will be part of the Costa Rica biome when Glasshouse construction has been completed.

Own ecosystem. In nature, he said, this strange and unusual tree becomes home to animals and other plants and is characterized by a web of intricate branches, vines, and exposed and gnarled roots that replace a more familiar trunk structure.

Tucked inside the Glasshouse tree will be three living exhibits featuring a lizard, a whip scorpion, and a tarantula.

The Great Cloud Forest Tree will support an 18-foot high canopy walk, which will allow visitors to look down into a gorge and view epiphytes, orchids, hummingbirds, butterflies, and tree ferns. Docents will have small animals and fruits to interpret and display. A waterfall at the far edge of the Glasshouse will exhibit a giant toad.

The newly installed tree trunk will sit on the site of the future Glasshouse while construction continues.

A special greenhouse at Rockefeller Park in Cleveland will house the tree’s 15-foot branches, that contain planting pockets where live orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes (plants that grow on plants) will be planted.

Many of these plants have been acquired from endangered areas in Costa Rica and will remain in quarantine until they are replanted in spring 2003.

Fragile environments. The Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse will be a crystalpeaked conservatory that will offers visitors an opportunity to explore two of the earth’s most fragile ecosystems: the cloud forest of Costa Rica, and the spiny desert of Madagascar, Each biome will display more than 500 species of plants in their full ecological context, and 50 species of butterflies, other insects, birds, and other animals.

“We are creating a model for botanical gardens,” Holley said, “by displaying plants in their full ecological context and helping to develop a public awareness of the necessity to preserve our environment.”

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