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The bottle started about 20 years ago when I put together a terrarium in a five gallon bottle. It was originally a present for my wife, but after we moved to our current house there was no longer a suitable place for it at home, So it came to stay in my office at work.
The soil level in the bottle started out at about 3 inches deep. But plant growth in the bottle has built up about eight inches of soil in twenty years. The current soil level is above the neck of the bottle on the sides but lower at at the opening. This may be due to drier conditions near the opening. The charcoal was recommended by the book I was reading when I put the terrarium together. It is supposed to keep the soil from "going sour". I have no idea if it worked at all, let alone for twenty years.
Sphagnum moss, seen here growing up the inside of the bottle, is probably the main contributor to new soil in the bottle. The sphagnum moss came in with a carnivorous plant in the original planting which long ago expired. Though not invited, the sphagnum moss was a welcome addition. Most carnivorous plants are difficult to raise because they have high humidity and high light requirements. Trying to provide both of these requirements in a terrarium usually leads to overheating.
Most of my pictures are from the outside looking through the glass and are distorted by the glass and obstructed by plants and others living on the inside of the glass. These two pictures give some idea what it would be like to climb down the neck of the bottle and be inside the bottle.
Here a pair of pictures of a "stand" of begonia near the neck end of the bottle. They put on a lot of blossoms in the spring and continue blooming sporadically throughout the summer.
The picture to the left shows creeping oakleaf fig the other flowering plant survivor of twenty years. To the right we see the bottom of the bottle dated '1974' which would make it about five years older then the terrarium system it contains. I have added about a half a cup of water on two occasions when things appeared a little dry the last time I did this was about 1996. I keep it under a florescent light in my cubicle.