The Ohio State University at Marion

LED grow lights create pink glow from campus building

January 31, 2018

Marion, Ohio — Commuters traveling the southern and western boundary of the Marion campus at dawn may have noticed a bright pink glow emanating from the greenhouse that is part of Ohio State Marion’s newly constructed Science & Engineering Building. The mysterious pink light that has warranted so many questions from motorists and campus pedestrians is actually special LED greenhouse lighting system that emulates the growing power of the sun during shorter, darker winter days.

“We are propagating prairie seedlings,” explained Marketa Lillard, an Ohio State Marion staff member who helps maintain the campus prairie. “We’re actually trying to trick the plants by mimicking the length of day and temperatures they would see in the spring growing season,” she added.

The reason is to develop plants further along their growth cycle than they would be normally so that when they are transplanted into Ohio State Marion’s reconstructed Sandusky Plains tall grass prairie, those hardier plants will be stronger competitors among the existing prairie plants already established.

The LED grow lights are pink colored and controlled by the computer automation built into the new greenhouse. The grow lights fill the time between about 5:30 in the morning until the sun rises shortly after 7:30 a.m. They will continue to operate until the end of March, explained Lillard, when the sun begins it's trek toward the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and we begin observing daylight savings time.

“This will mean, when we transplant them, the prairie species will have an extra three months of growth, giving them a better chance of survival,” she said.

Species being propagated from seeds collected this past fall are blue flag iris, prairie dock, ironweed, blue bottle gentian, dense blazing star, wild bergamot, several species of cone flowers, several species of milkweed, wild hyacinth, blue vervain, among others.

“These are the plants that were native to the Sandusky Plains before this area was settled,” explains Lillard. The Larry Yoder Prairie Learning Laboratory was established in the 1970's to help preserve those native species that, by then, had retreated to a few strips of ground along railroad tracks in Marion County.

The Larry Yoder Prairie Learning Laboratory (named for Ohio State Marion’s biology professor during the 1970s) is both a living classroom for Ohio State Marion students as well as a conservation area open to the general public.

For more information on the Ohio State Marion prairie contact Marketa Lillard at 740-725-6164 or

Ohio State Marion senior zoology major, Julaina Bennett of LaRue, Ohio checks the progress of recently sprouted seedlings in the greenhouse on the south side of Ohio State Marion's Science and Engineering Building. Bennett's interest in prairie ecosystems began at Elgin High School, where she took part in the school's Sandusky Plains prairie project and has continued throughout her time on the Marion campus.