This story is featured in the Fall 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s new director of the Caine Conservatory brings together the environment and learning opportunities.
When Dr. Jason Lattier talks about plants, names of ornamental species flow effortlessly like he’s talking about dear friends.
There’s Amorphophallus titanum, a giant flower from Sumatra known for its pungent aroma. There’s Epiphyllum, a stunning Central American genus of night-blooming cacti, and Wollemia nobilis, a rare living fossil and critically endangered species from Australia.
Through his travels and research positions in such places as the Costa Rican Cloud Forest and London’s Kew Gardens, Lattier has learned about a diversity of plant species. Now, he is bringing them to HPU to share with students and the community.
As a horticulturalist, an expert in the cultivation of gardens, Lattier’s passion is bringing together plants of diverse climates, characteristics and purposes. Lattier also serves as director of HPU’s Caine Conservatory, a 15,000-square-foot space that’s currently under construction on campus. When it opens in 2020, the facility will be dedicated to studying, propagating and displaying plants from all over the world under one glass roof.
Lattier is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, where he grew up next door to his grandparents and their gardens. His love of plants started there, but in college he combined his passion and career. Today, he shares that with HPU students through teaching, botanical research and ornamental display.
“North Carolina has one of the largest green industries in the country, and there are many applications for botanical research in plant breeding and genetics, as well as medicine and biotechnology,” says Lattier. “I want students to look at the conservatory as a potential starting point for cutting-edge careers. Beyond that, horticulture is exciting work. It’s a little bit art, a little bit science. The byproduct is people getting to enjoy in awe and wonder the beautiful displays you put together.”
Already renown for the Mariana H. Qubein Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which have achieved Tree Campus USA recognition for 10 years in a row, HPU is gaining greater attention from botanical experts and enthusiasts for having one of the only conservatories of its kind on a university campus.
The Caine Conservatory is named for Don and Teresa Caine, owners of Camco Manufacturing in Greensboro, North Carolina, who generously gave their support. It is located next to the new Wanek School of Natural Sciences and will support scientific research at HPU. In the working greenhouse space, professors and students can do everything from breeding to isolating medicinal compounds, such as those used to fight cancer.
“We are thankful to the Caines for fulfilling one of our dreams, a conservatory that serves our university and community,” says HPU First Lady Mariana Qubein, who leads the vision for the campus gardens and arboretum. “Jason will curate a collection of plants we are unable to have in our outdoor gardens to add greater diversity and expose people to plants they may not otherwise experience. It will be great for experiential learning and an educational instrument for our community.”
The plant displays will be open to campus visitors, and a lineup of speakers and workshops will be open to the community.
With classroom space and a bistro, the conservatory will also serve as a place to gather and fellowship.
“Much like the rest of campus, every detail has a meaning and a purpose,” says Lattier. “It’s a place to learn and get your hands dirty working with plants, but it’s also a place to relax, recharge and take a break from your busy schedule. It’s educational, meaningful and beautiful.”