Roots of the Mizzou Botanic Garden

Rather than being a campus with a botanic garden in its midst — a familiar model for universities with robust plant science programs — Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) is a garden with a campus in its midst.

There are no signs at University of Missouri entrances to tell you that you are entering a botanic garden and no fees are charged to enter and enjoy the plantings. Visitors won’t find a centralized plant information center, nor will they find a garden gift shop. But a brief stroll almost anywhere on the beautiful MU campus serves as testament to its status as a certified botanic garden.

Former MU Chancellor Barbara Uehling first championed the idea for the botanical makeover in 1981. That spark ignited a slow burn of support and enthusiastic champions like Kee Groshong, 38-year vice chancellor of administrative services at MU, fanned private fundraising flames to make it happen. MUBG became a reality in 1999 when, according to Pete Millier, landscape services and botanic garden director, former MU Chancellor Richard Wallace, “signed on the dotted line.”

There are three distinct requirements of a garden that has formalized its status as “botanical.”

  • Accession records must be maintained for all plantings. This is an archived list of every plant added to the garden showing the order of its addition, an accession number and detailed information about the plant itself.
  • Plants displayed in the gardens must be labeled with identification markers. The Garden utilizes volunteers to help with the endeavor.
  • Botanic gardens must provide educational opportunities.

“Most botanic gardens are in the business of attracting people to the garden. They use educational efforts to bring visitors in,” Millier said. “But we have 44,000 visitors every day.”

Since many of the visitors to Mizzou Botanic Garden are students who traverse the gardens daily on their way to and from classes, working with faculty to engage students with the plantings is one way MUBG raises awareness of its mission.

The gardens truly do serve as an educational resource for plant science courses and also on topics such as sustainability through collaborative projects on storm water management. Educating visitors and others about pollinators is also one of the garden’s primary missions.

The garden features 11 thematic gardens, descriptions of which are available here, as are downloadable maps of Jesse Hall, Lowry Mall and Memorial Union Tree Trails for self-guided tours.

“This is not just an opportunity to see a pretty campus,” said Millier, “but an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work in mid-Missouri gardens.”