In an earlier post, I talked about the Victorians' passion for botany. One of their favorite pastimes was growing prized specimens in these glass showpieces known as Wardian cases—named for 19th-century botanist Nathaniel Ward. While on a woodland walk, he found a moth pupa and placed it in a bottle he happened to be carrying. When he returned home, he forgot all about it—until months later when he discovered that instead of a butterfly, a fern seedling had spouted. And so began this enduring Victorian tradition. At the time, some suspected it was a fad but Wardian cases continue to be popular today and many sources sell reproduction cases with Victorian flair.
I think I must have been a Victorian in an earlier life because I seem to share their penchant for many things, including collecting these charming cases. Today, I have about 10 of them in various rooms and I've even had the opportunity to write about them in an article on the history of terrariums that I did for Flower Gardening magazine several years ago.