The Ray Ethan Torrey Botanical Greenhouse currently housed by the Department of Biology includes nearly 700 genera in more than 225 families. Interesting angiosperms in the collection include Annona muricata (the sour sop) of the family Annonaceae, Chloranthus and Hedyosmum of the family Chloranthaceae, Illicium (the star anise) of the family Illiciaceae, and Drimys and Pseudowintera of the family Winteraceae.
The collection also contains a number of interesting economic plants, including Myristica (nutmeg) of the family Myristicaceae; Cinnamomum (cinnamon) and Laurus (true laurel or bay) of the family Lauraceae; Mangifera (mango) of the family Anacardiaceae; Durio (the durian) of the family Bombacaceae; Ananas (the pineapple) of the family Bromeliaceae; Hevea (rubber), Manihot (cassava, tapioca), and Ricinus (castor oil plant) of the family Euphorbiaceae; Oryza (rice), Hordeum (barley), and Saccharum (sugar cane) of the grass family (the Gramineae); Gossypium (cotton) of the family Malvaceae; Swietenia (mahogany) of the family Meliaceae; Ficus (fig) of the family Moraceae; Musa (banana) of the family Musaceae; Olea (olive) of the family Oleaceae; Piper (black pepper) of the family Piperaceae; Punica (pomegranate) of the family Punicaceae; Coffea (coffee) of the family Rubiaceae; Nicotiana (tobacco) of the family Solanaceae; Theobroma (cocao) of the family Sterculiaceae; Camellia (tea) of the family Theaceae; and Zingiber (ginger) of the family Zingiberaceae.
Carnivorous plants are another group which is of particular interest. Our living collections contain a number of carnivorous angiosperms, including Drosera (sundew) and Dionaea (Venus-fly-trap) of the family Droseraceae; Pinguicula (butterwort) and Utricularia (bladderwort) of the family Lentibulariaceae; Nepenthes (Old World pitcher plant) of the family Nepenthaceae; and Sarracenia and Darlingtonia of the family Sarraceniaceae (the New World pitcher plant family).
Other flowering plants in the living collection that are particularly notable include Gunnera of the family Gunneraceae, which often contains symbiotic cyanobacteria in its tissues; Passiflora (the passion flower) of the family Passifloraceae, one of the few familes of angiosperms that has an androgynophore; and Akebia of the family Lardizabalaceae, which has the unusual character of having a dehiscent berry.
In addition to flowering plants the living collections also contain a number of notable gymnosperms. Included among these are Gnetum, Ephedra, and Welwitschia of the order Gnetales, which are characterized by the unusual character (for gymnosperms) of having vessels. The genus Welwitschia is an especially bizarre plant that comes from the Angolan and Namibian desert and has only two leaves throughout its entire life even though it may grow to be hundreds of years old. Welwitschia is dioecious and our collection contains large plants of both sexes, each of which have flowered recently.
The collection also holds a number of cycads, gymnosperms that go back to the age of the dinosaurs, and which, like Ginkgo, retain motile, flagellate sperm cells. Cycads in the collection include Bowenia, Dioon, Cycas, Encepharlartos, Zamia, Microcycas, and Stangeria. The genus Microcycas, which is endemic to a very restricted area of Cuba, is one of the rarest of cycads. Stangeria when first discovered in South Africa was sent back to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and first described as a fern. It was only later when it produced cones that it was realized that it was actually a gymnosperm.
Finally, the collection also contains a number of notable ferns, including Psilotum. Other interesting ferns include tree ferns such as Angiopteris and Marattia of the family Marratiaceae, Cyathea of the family Cyatheaceae, and Dicksonia of the family Dicksoniaceae, horsetails (the genus Equisetum), and the floating fern Salvinia.