As autumn temperatures drop in the region and the trees lose their leaves in anticipation of winter, it might surprise some Ithacan readers to discover that a tropical oasis exists in their own backyard. Florae Collaborative, a tropical plant nursery specializing in rare carnivorous plants and boasting a state-of-the-art greenhouse and propagation lab operated by a team of experts, opened its doors in May of this year.
Since then, Florae, one of Rev’s newest member companies, has been steadily building a dedicated community of rare plant collectors for its biweekly online plant “drops.” In both its drops and auctions, customers can purchase rare orchids, aroids—the philodendron in desperate need of watering in your home office is an aroid—and Nepenthes, the carnivorous pitcher plants that are Florae’s specialty.
The experts behind Florae include Nina Bassuk, a professor and program leader at the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University, and Ryan Georgia, one of the top carnivorous plant growers in the United States and the founder of Native Exotics, a carnivorous plant nursery that preceded Florae. Georgia, who also works as a research technician in the horticulture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, practically grew up in Cornell’s greenhouses. At 12 years old, he was taken under the wing of Mary Alyce Kobler, who managed the research greenhouses at Cornell’s Boyce Thompson Institute at the time.
In addition to providing quality horticulturally produced plants, Florae’s mission is also centered on environmental stewardship, focusing on education, research, and sustainability. The company is building a robust online knowledge center filled with resources for beginner and experienced growers and hosted its first open house this summer featuring greenhouse tours and plant talks with plans for more educational events in the future. This past summer, Florae hosted Summer Rayne Oakes—an influencer in the plant world—as a guest speaker.
Florae also built its greenhouse and propagation lab with sustainability in mind. The facility, which is divided into three sections for lowland, intermediate, and highland plants, utilizes solar energy and a geothermal system for temperature control. Additionally, most of the plants that Florae propagates are cloned in its state-of-the-art micropropagation lab, which is important as plant poaching is a growing threat to rare species.
An e-commerce business primarily, Florae does offer two open houses a year to the public, featuring facility tours and plant talks, so customers can learn about its tropical plant offerings in-person. Its next open house will be held in late spring or early summer in 2022. For locals, the company also hosts potting parties at its greenhouse. Tropical plant enthusiasts—and the tropical plant curious—are encouraged to sign up for Florae’s newsletter to receive updates about these events and other opportunities.