Beal Botanical Garden is the oldest garden of its kind in U.S.
There are a few things in the world that become better with age — wine, wisdom and now add the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden to the list.
The Beal Botanical Garden will celebrate its 140-year anniversary this fall, making it the oldest on-campus university botanical garden in the U.S.
“I try to come here (to the garden) at least once a week,” said Westin Babyak, a no-preference sophomore. “It’s a great place to hang out.”
Babyak was visiting with Megan Hertel, a freshman at the University of Michigan, and was among the many admirers of the garden on Monday.
“The Beal Botanical Garden has a rich history and tradition,” said Dr. Frank Telewski, professor of plant biology and the garden’s curator. “The garden was started in 1873 by Professor Beal to be a ‘living laboratory.’”
Telewski pointed out that the garden has more than 2,500 different plant species and is also used as a “living library.” The Beal Botanical Garden was also the site of Beal’s research of hybridizing corn and the earliest turf grass research.
“Professor Beal wanted to have live subject matter for his students,” Telewski said. “The garden continues to serve as an important resource for research and teaching.”
The Beal Botanical Garden hosts events such as a toxicology workshop, where doctors can learn the medicinal properties of plants for emergency situations, as well as field trips for school children, Telewski said.
Hope Rankin, a botanical technician who has worked with the Beal Botanical Garden for the last 13 years, said the garden also hosts weddings, both formal and informal.
“We don’t have chairs or electricity,” Rankin said. “However, we do host some weddings. People do hurry in, get married and leave before we catch them, but we discourage that.”
The Beal Botanical Garden also has 450 sister botanical institutions that are involved in a seed exchange, in which the institutions can trade seeds amongst themselves. This is helpful when the garden is divided into different sections with themes.
“There are sections designated to southern Michigan and northern Michigan,” Rankin said. “There are also western plants, as well as a medicinal plants section and a section for endangered plants in Michigan.”
The Beal Botanical Garden’s 140-year anniversary celebration is scheduled to take place in the fall; however, it will stick close to its roots.
“We will be having an event,” Rankin said. “It will be a small get-together. We may have music, we may have Sparty, but we never have anything in this garden that would have any heavy trampling.”