David placed the glass terrarium near his window and claims that the plant likes to grow toward the light. Every so often he will turn the plant, so the species inside can grow evenly. He claims he’s never had to prune the plant and has not bothered watering it since 1972. The species he planted is known as a Tradescantia, a special indoor variety of Spiderworts which is a type of crawling Ivy.
Terrariums have been around since the invention of glass. The way a terrarium works is that the glass traps in light and moisture, creating a small water cycle, similar to that on earth, where water evaporates, rains, nourishes the earth, then evaporates again. The plant inside Latimer’s terrarium survives on its own, as it has created the perfect cycle within its containment.
Plants are proficient environment cleaners, so whenever Latimer’s plant decays, it replaces it’s own carbon and releases additional oxygen within the glass enclosure. Photosynthesis is at its perfection, and there’s no telling just how long Latimer’s plant will last.
Terrariums grew in immense popularity in the Victorian era, eventually giving rise to our mass-use of Greenhouses around the world to grow produce in nearly any climate.
Latimer, now 80, plans to try and pass down the horticultural curiosity to his children when he passes on, but if they don’t want it, the Royal Horticultural Society will take it off his hands.The terrarium has created its own ecosystem, and regardless of being separated from the rest of the environment, it has managed to last for nearly half a century. The popularity of the home terrarium is credited with historic author Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, whose text “On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases” is the earliest known published work on the subject in 1842.