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Around the Columns

Mizzou Botanic Garden turns 10


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Plants were humanity’s first classrooms, laboratories and playgrounds. “For 95 percent of human history, we were entirely associated with plants and living among them, enjoying them, depending on them, finding out which were good, which were medicines, and so on,” says Peter Raven, who directs the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. So, it’s fitting that a more recent educational experiment — the University of Missouri — should make plants integral to its environment.

The Mizzou Botanic Garden, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2009, covers campus with 11 thematic gardens, three tree trails and seven special plant collections. Campus Facilities staff choose the plants for their beauty, adaptability to Missouri’s climate, and their educational value to students and visitors.

Raven, an internationally known botanist and environmentalist, lectured about sustainability related topics on campus Aug. 27, 2009, at the garden’s anniversary celebration. His honors include the Priestley Medal and the U.S. National Medal of Science. Time magazine calls him a “Hero for the Planet.”

After his talk covering global policy-level issues, Raven responded to a question about humans’ emotional connection to plants. “Even if you live in a city on the 19th floor, you still love to have plants in your room, look at flowers and give bouquets. People were putting flowers on graves 80,000 years ago. Their forms and shapes have inspired most of our art on some level. They are us; we are them. We are hard wired to love them.”

Having a beautiful MU campus is important, Raven says. “The way the botanical garden has developed around the campus in the last decade makes it a welcoming lovely place of which we can all be proud. There’s something fine about a campus filled with beautiful places to walk, sit, study, propose to one another — do all sorts of things. Students are attracted here and alumni attracted back. People value its presence in the community.”

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