Bountiful botanicals

Green-thumbed citizens volunteer their time to help maintain MU’s Botanic Gardens.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Butterflies fluttered in the last of the afternoon sun as they were temporarily disturbed by volunteers trimming and cutting dead debris from plants, flowers and trees on a recent Tuesday in MU’s Butterfly Garden.

Volunteers can help in the 14 gardens, including the butterfly garden and three tree trails that constitute the Mizzou Botanic Garden, said Pete Millier, director of Landscape Services and the Mizzou Botanic Garden.

“I think that the most enjoyable aspect of volunteering that can be derived from the volunteers’ experience is that their efforts help to make something better for others to enjoy,” Millier said. “Volunteers that work in the botanic garden of our campus can also look at their efforts and see tangible results in a more beautiful garden.”

Twenty-five to 30 volunteers help with the botanic garden. Hsiao-Mei Wiedmeyer, the volunteer coordinator, said she has given her time to the garden for the past three years.

“My major reason to volunteer is to learn more about plants and gardens, which the landscape employees have been very willing to share and teach us,” Wiedmeyer said. “It has been a great experience.”

Elizabeth Hoyos, a post-doctoral fellow in the biochemistry department at MU, has volunteered at the Mizzou Botanic Garden for a couple of months.

“I’m learning a lot about different types of plants, plant combinations and garden designs,” said Hoyos, who is a master gardener. The master gardener program requires its members to volunteer at least 20 hours a year.

Wiedmeyer, who is also a master gardener, estimated that 70 to 80 percent of volunteers for the Mizzou Botanic Garden are master gardeners.

Beginning volunteer Karen Ballew, who works in environmental health and safety at MU, said she enjoys her work in the garden.

“You get so wrapped up in it and share information back and forth with other people,” she said. “It is fun, not a chore.”

Volunteers can expect to prune, weed and clean out old flowers, Millier said.

On-call volunteers usually serve as tour guides. Millier said a typical tour has about 15 to 30 visitors and lasts two to three hours.

A booklet about the three trails, called loops, aids self-guided tours of the botanical gardens. The three loops are the Jesse Hall Loop, Lowry Hall Loop and Memorial Union Loop. The booklet also includes descriptions and locations of trees.

“The best times to tour the campus are spring and fall,” Millier said. “The spring tours feature new growth on all of the trees and an abundance of vibrant, flowering shrubs. The fall tours highlight the annual fall tree colors. Both seasons have outstanding weather, and that is a plus.”

However, summer and winter tours are also valuable, Millier said.

“Summer tours, if you can survive the heat, feature the lush, tropical plantings that are the hallmark of the campus in warm weather,” Millier said. “I enjoy winter tours because the weather is crisp and you can see the buds growing on all of the spring flowering trees and shrubs.”

“Winter is also a wonderful time to bird watch on the campus,” he said, “and with no leaves on most of the trees the beautiful architecture of the buildings is more visible.”

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