Experience a small tropical environment in the middle of Indiana! With over 2,000 orchids, the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse contains the largest university-based orchid collection in the United States, including the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank and Betty Kendall Ladyslipper Orchid Species Collection. The collection is a living museum which provides opportunities for education and conservation of rare and endangered orchid species and has opportunities for orchid research. The Rinard Orchid Greenhouse is a designated Plant Rescue Center under CITES. We receive occasional shipments of orchids that have been imported illegally and later confiscated by the USFWS.
The 3,400-square-foot greenhouse is a resource used by students in biology, natural resources, art, technology, landscape architecture, and photography and presents a variety of educational programs open to the general public. Programs include Saturday programs, mini-educational programs, walk-in tours, and guided tours by request. Changing educational displays, student art exhibits, and other seasonal features make the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse a great place to visit throughout the year.
Ball State founded the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank in 1970 after a donation from W.O. and Goldie Wheeler of Indianapolis, IN. Several large donations followed and increased the diversity of orchid species in the collection, including donations from Al Thanhauser (1982) of Connecticut and Charles Bracker (2008) of West Lafayette, IN. Dr. Bracker also donated 30,000 digital images of his orchids to Ball State in 2009, which are housed in the University Libraries Special Collections. In 2016, The Betty Kendall Ladyslipper Orchid Species Collection was established to celebrate local centenarian, Betty Kendall. This Special Collection is a part of the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank (WOCSB)
On May 30, 2014, the Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse was dedicated to house the WOCSB. Both Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard are alums of Ball State University. Dr. Rinard gifted funds for the greenhouse to honor his wife, Alice, who loved all things nature and beautiful. The expansion of the original Rinard Orchid Greenhouse (2014) was dedicated in June 2022. The expansion doubled the size of the Conservatory and built the Environmental Education Center (aka Nature Lab) and outdoor classroom. The expansion has increased the staff’s capabilities for creating public and scheduled environmental education programs.