Just off a remote stretch of road here, near wineries, horse stables and farms, Amazon is secretly growing something, but it's not what Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, calls the "tiny seeds" that could become the company's next big businesses.
No, Amazon is growing actual plants, more than 3,000 species of them spread around a one-acre greenhouse a half-hour's drive from Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. There are carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic philodendrons and orchids from Ecuador that resemble the menacing flora from "Little Shop of Horrors."
"Cinnamon, wax candy and baby powder," said Ron Gagliardo, the Amazon horticulturist who oversees the greenhouse, when asked to describe the mysterious scent of the orchid, called Anguloa virginalis.
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Amazon pioneered internet shopping, electronic book reading and cloud computing. Now, as it enters adulthood, it is applying some of that inventiveness to its new home. The company is constructing a collection of high-rise and low-rise buildings in downtown Seattle that will be arrayed around three striking transparent, conjoined structures that Amazon calls spheres. They will act as high-tech greenhouses, the kind of flashy architecture that Amazon shunned for the first 22 years of its life.