Amazon Spears from the outside

Touring Amazon Spheres in my wheelchair

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The Amazon Spheres are three spherical conservatories that are part of the Amazon headquarters campus in Seattle. According to Amazon, the Spheres are a result of innovative thinking about the character of a workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices– a direct link to nature. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries. 

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The spheres are a place where Amazon employees can think and work differently surrounded by plants.  I definitely had my share of working surrounded by greenery. I was also lucky enough to get a desk which had direct sunlight at that time of the day.

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Living wall in Amazon Spears

One of the most exciting features of Amazon Spheres are the living walls. With more than 25,000 plants woven into 4,000 square feet of mesh, these vertical gardens are an innovative demonstration of biodiversity. Check out a video of how this wall came into being. The plants found here include many ferns, cool growing orchids, and aroids.

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The biodiversity at this indoor rainforest is intense. Let me take you through a few plants:

Begonia Melanobullata plant

Begonia melanobullata is a very unique species found only is Thach An District, Cao Bang Province, Vietnam, near Vietnam-China border. It grows on semi-shaded wet cliffs on steep limestone slopes in it’s evergreen broad-leaved forest. The plant’s name refers to the color of the bullae on leaf surface; melano = black or dark, and bullae= blistered or puckered.

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Begonia soli-mutata plant

The Begonia soli-mutata is a native of countries such as Mexico, Central and South America, Asia and South Africa – regions with tropical and subtropical climates. This particular one is from South Asia. While the plants can grow very large horizontally, they don’t reach great heights because they grow from the rhizomes (plant stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes), which creep along the soil. These plants also have small flowers in shades of pink and white. 

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Petrocosmea plant

Petrocosmea is a member of the African violet family with most of the 47 recognized species occurring in China. It grows as a lithophyte in mossy forests and the Latin name means “pretty rock”. Delicate flowers in shades of white to purple emerge from underneath the tight rosette-forming leaves in late winter.

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Nepenthes Glandulifera – Asian Pitcher Plant

The carnivorous Pitcher plant is called so because of it’s pitcher-shaped leaves that form a passive pitfall trap. Pitcher plants are found in a wide range of habitats with poor soil conditions, from pine barrens to sandy coastal swamps, and rely on carnivory to obtain nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

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Attenborough’s Pitcher Plant

The lid of the pitcher secretes nectar to attract prey, which are unable to escape from the trap because of its downward-pointing hairs and slick sides. The critically endangered Attenborough’s pitcher plant is one of the largest of all carnivorous plants, reaching up to 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) tall with pitchers that are 30 cm (11.8 inches) in diameter. Found near the summit of Mount Victoria on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, Attenborough’s pitcher plant is capable of capturing and digesting rodents, as well as insects and other small animals. The slender pitcher plant is also a part of the same family.

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Slender Pitcher Plant

Cypripedioideae aka lady’s slipper orchids

Cypripedioideae is a subfamily of orchids commonly known as lady’s slipper orchids. They are characterised by the slipper-shaped pouches (modified labella) of the flowers – the pouch traps insects so they are forced to climb up past the staminode, behind which they collect or deposit pollinia, thus fertilizing the flower.

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Cypripedium species are native across much of North America as well as parts of Europe. This adorable little plant has only two leaves, which branch out from the center where its single flower stalk also grows. The unique flower looks just like a lady’s slipper (oftentimes spelled as such), closed tightly except for a small opening in the front. Blooms range in color from white and yellow to deep pink and nearly purple shades.

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Last but not least, thanks to Amazon Spheres I got to know about the corpse flower. An Amorphophallus titanum, better known as a corpse flower, usually takes about seven years to produce its first bloom, which only remains open for about 48 hours.  While blooming the corpse flower possesses an odor of rotting flesh, which gives the plant its popular nickname. During this time, it also heats to 98 degrees to help the stench travel farther and attract pollinators. I picked up the below time-lapse video of the blooming from the Amazon blog

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Blooming of an Amorphophallus titanum aka Corpse Flower

The Amazon Spears is a little piece of nature, surrounded by an urban neighbourhood, where you can lose yourself.

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4 comments

  1. Fascinating. What a wonderfully creative way of preserving a tiny piece of bio diversity. Wonder how they reconcile the hot , humid environment, which is what I suppose the plants thrive on, with the need for the more comfortable work spaces we are accustomed to. Thank you. This is not something one would ordinarily get to see.

    1. The environment was pretty comfortable for me. I spent a few hours working from the spheres.
      Also, according to their website: The Spheres climate is optimized so both plants and visitors can thrive. Visitors can expect a daytime temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity at around 60 percent. No heavy coat needed.

  2. Ahh. 22 C would be very comfortable. Its 31 C here in Calcutta. Incidentally, are you available on whatsapp ? Someone sent me a clip of an ingenious back to front Chinese wheelchair, or rather transporter, in which the seat faces the pusher. The seat is in two parts and swings open and shut, It shows a man sitting on a bed. The back of the chair is pushed up against his legs. the two halves of the seat part and then are pushed together under his rear. The back rest is then secured and hes ready to move without having had to be lifted up and rotated. The same process in reverse deposits him on the sofa. I found it ingenious and have not come across anything like it on the net. Unfortunately everything is in Chinese so I am not able to research further. Just thought it may be of interest to you.

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