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Terrarium for an exhibition in Toronto
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium, by definition, is a garden under glass. This technique was very popular in Victorian times, and is now gaining new popularity. You can create all kinds of different landscapes, from a woodland scene to a desert or tropical jungle. You can even add water, insects or small animals and make a vivarium.

A small-scale ecosystem

Creating a terrarium is an interesting and educational project, for it clearly illustrates how an ecosystem works. A terrarium is a closed ecosystem – like our planet, but on a smaller scale. Inside its glass walls, many different processes occur and interact: photosynthesis, respiration, and the water cycle.

A closed environment like this helps us better understand what impact living organisms and their environments have on each other. With the help of the sun’s energy and photosynthesis, plants produce their own food. The water in the terrarium is constantly recycled, passing from liquid form to gas and back again, as the moisture in the air condenses on the glass walls, returns to the soil and is absorbed by the plants’ roots.

Growing plants under glass or in a terrarium is an original way of coping with the problem of the dry air in our homes, since it provides a very humid environment for plants, making it possible to grow more demanding varieties. In addition, terrariums can be very decorative and make good gifts for people with pollen allergies.

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