Flowers, education bloom

A DNA-shaped path winds through Life Sciences Center garden
Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:04 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Science is not limited to the inside of MU’s new Life Sciences Center. Outside the southern face of the building is the Life Sciences Discovery Garden, which features crops that are the subject of research at MU and plants with medical uses.

Joan Smith, the landscape designer at Campus Facilities-Landscape Services who designed the roughly 6,400-square-foot garden, calls it “a passive learning experience.” Labels, Smith said, will tell each plant’s common and botanical name, as well as its beneficial uses.

Medicinal plants include witch hazel, foxglove, coneflower and yew. The garden will also be home to lesser-known medicinal plants such as Madagascar periwinkle and bugleweed.

Witch hazel is commonly used as an astringent and anti-inflammatory. Foxglove is used in digoxin, a heart drug. Coneflower is popularly known as Echinacea, an immune system booster. WebMD, a health Web site, credits yew as an ingredient in the anti-cancer drug Taxol and Madagascar periwinkle in the anti-cancer drug Velban. Bugleweed may be used for treating mild hyperthyroidism.

The crop plants include corn, soybeans and buffalo grass. These plants were designed at MU “to resist disease, pests and drought and improve nutrition,” according to online information from MU about the campus master plan.

Through the garden runs a path in the shape of a double-helix strand of DNA, inspired by images Smith found on the Internet. At one end of the path, the walkway appears to separate, the way DNA does when it begins to replicate.

Mark Jarvis of Campus Facilities-Landscape Services turned the complex shape into construction drawings. “The shape is most prominent when viewed from the upper levels of the building,” Smith said.

The garden is a gift from Lowell and Marian Miller, according to online information from MU. Lowell Miller served as manager of a pharmaceutical research and development team.

Tom Flood, the former superintendent of landscape services, came up with the concept of the garden.

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