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A phytotron is an enclosed research greenhouse used for studying interactions between plants and the environment. It was a product of the disciplines of plant physiology and botany.

The first phytotron was built under the direction of Frits Warmolt Went at the California Institute of Technology in 1949. It was funded by the Harry B. Earhart Foundation, and was officially known as the Earhart Plant Research Laboratory. It acquired its more unique nickname evidently from a joking conversation between Caltech biologists James Bonner and Sam Wildman.

Phytotrons spread around the world between 1945 and the present day to Australia, France, Hungary, the Soviet Union, England, and the United States. Moreover, they have spurred variants such as the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Biotron at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Ecotron at Imperial College London.


  • David P.D. Munns, ‘Controlling the Environment: the Australian phytotron and postcolonial science,’ British Scholar II:2 (2010): 197-226.

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