Gardener Claims He Hasn’t Watered This Flourishing Biosphere Since 1972

Gardener Claims He Hasn’t Watered This Flourishing Biosphere Since 1972

If you can’t raise a plant to save your life you know the appeal of terrariums, which can sustain themselves for months on end without being watered. But a retiree in the UK says he sealed up his bottle garden in 1972 — and hasn’t watered it since.

The Times reports on David Latimer, a Surrey man who recently called into the BBC Radio 4’s “Gardeners’ Question Time” to tell experts about his little experiment: a 38-litre glass bottle that he filled with soil, a single seedling, and a pint of water in 1960. He opened it up to give it another pint in 1972, then shut it up for good.

In the years since, the spiderwort inside has flourished into a thriving ecosystem that the BBC radio presenters described to him as an example of how plants are able to recycle. "Photosynthesis creates oxygen and also puts more moisture in the air," says the Daily Mail. "The leaves it drops rot at the bottom of the bottle, creating the carbon dioxide also needed for photosynthesis and nutrients which it absorbs through its roots."

But Latimer's story isn't without sceptics. Could an ecosystem really survive that long? Plenty of commenters have questioned how carbon dioxide is circulated within the bottle, while others suggest that its survival might be thanks to its cork stopper, which is actually permeable and may have allowed an "exchange of gasses" between the open air and the enclosed ecosystem.

So, biologists among us: Does this story hold water? [The Times]

Picture: Timber Press, Kate Baldwin