Friday, January 27, 2023

UW Biology Greenhouse

1/25/23 UW Biology Greenhouse Bromeliad room


It may have been cloudy and chilly on Wednesday, but USk Seattle members stayed toasty-warm. Sketching inside the University of Washington Biology Greenhouse, we were dazzled by all the plant species we could sketch. Completely rebuilt and newly reopened at the end of 2022, the greenhouse is open to the public weekly, but we got an exclusive visit to ourselves so that we could sketch at our leisure. What a treat!

It had been nearly 10 years since USk Seattle met at the UW’s old greenhouse facility, which was in the same location but much smaller. After facility manager Katie gave us a tour,  I spent a while just walking through the various labs trying to focus. If I’d had all day, I might have comfied up with a stool and picked one plant to do a detailed botanical study, but with Urban Sketchers, I felt more like making a variety of vignettes instead. I started with a corner of the Bromeliad Room, also called the Tree of Life Room, where Kim was sketching an enormous dark red and green Vriesea imperialis (above).

Inspired by the imperialis’ gorgeous hues, I spotted a slightly hairy, carnivorous Nepenthes alata (blossom? leaf?), also known as a tropical pitcher plant, in similar colors. The bold vein pattern on an Alocasia micholitziana, also called green velvet taro, seemed like it should be easy to sketch, but its completely matte surface had no reflection or shadow to help me with form. The pitcher plant was easier in that regard.

Two fascinating and beautiful plant parts

In the few minutes before the throwdown, I made a quick sketch of some plants against a corridor window.

Facility manager Katie giving us tour and corridor plants.

Many thanks to UW Biology for giving USk Seattle full run of the place! We certainly intend to make this venue a winter mainstay.


  1. That tropical pitcher plant is so interesting. How great that you have an indoor location with lots of different plants to sketch.


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