History of Terrarium

General Information

The history of terrarium stretched as far back to in the late 1800s. The word ‘terrarium’ was derived from the word ‘aquarium’ with ‘aqua’ referring to water being replaced with the prefix ‘terra’ referring to land. The discovery of terrarium is an interesting and unintentional one which plays a great impact on commercial success of transporting plants around the world.It started with a general practitioner and keen amateur botanist, Doctor Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (1791 – 1868).

In 1829, while studying a hawk moth chrysalis, Ward made the accidental discovery that led to the invention of the terrarium. He recites:

“I had buried the chrysalis of a Sphinx in some moist mould contained in a wide-mouthed glass bottle, covered with a lid. In watching the bottle from day to day, I observed that the moisture which, during the heat of the day arose from the mould, condensed on the surface of the glass, and returned whence it came; thus keeping the earth always in the same degree of humidity. About a week prior to the final change of the insect, a seedling fern and a grass made their appearance on the surface of the mould .”

Impact on Trade

After Dr. Nathaniel Ward discovered that ferns enclosed in glass cases could survive London’s coal-smoke-laden air, explorers and merchants adapted the enclosures to transport and profit from exotic new plants from Australia, New Zealand and other climates far from European shores. As such, these enclosures were named after him called ‘Wardian Case’. These Wardian Cases has helped transport medicinal, economic and ornamental plants across the world establishing greater flora varieties at different communities. As written by Loddiges in 1842,

“we used to lose 19 out of 20 cases during the voyage, [but] 19 out of 20 is now the average that survive.”

Terrarium is born

An interest in tropical, exotic species of plants during the early 1900’s led to an increase in the commercial value of Wardian Cases. The wealthy took a keen interest in the terrarium as a fashionable planter for the Victorian parlor. Ornamental versions of Wardian Cases were built in glass and shaped like a greenhouse. They were used to house orchids.

As terrarium evolves till today, it comes in various form, mainly as deco to the home or office.  Types of terrarium also increases. To name a few, they are closed terrarium, open terrarium, carnivorous terrarium etc.

J&J Terrarium Gardening over the year has created a wide variety of terrariums and provide customization for our customer. We have explored the use of water features in our terrarium, the use of preserved moss, lighting features in our designs. If these thrilled you, feel free to browse through our E-store and gallery for more unique designs.