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Creating a sense of place, MU’s botanical garden connects with campus community

Pete Millier, director of landscaping services, explains the history and greater benefit behind the Mizzou Botanic Garden.

Multimedia by Laura Davison and Lee Jian Chung; text by Laura Davison

Pete Millier wants students to stop and smell the roses.

The director of the Mizzou Botanic Garden and MU Campus Facilities-Landscape Services oversees anything green and red — and every color in between — on every plot of soil at MU.

Watch | Pete Millier describes how the campus botanical garden can be fun for students.

But his main focus is to engage students in the campus landscape. He hopes to do so by teaching them about horticulture, architecture and history.

The botanical garden teams up with academic departments to teach students about the natural world. In addition, Millier has recently placed matrix bar codes on the plants’ signs that allow visitors to learn about the plants by scanning the codes with their smartphones. His hope is to be able to reach out to the increasing population of students who use smartphones.

By forming partnerships with academic units such as the Division of Plant Sciences and the College of Engineering, Millier, who moved from Fresno, Calif., in 2005, has helped grow the botanic garden. The Division of Plant Sciences and the College of Engineering do research on plant life and storm water management in the campuswide garden.

Former Chancellor Barbara Uehling first inspired the idea for a campuswide botanic garden in 1981. This vision was realized when the Mizzou Botanic Garden was established in 1999. MU is among a handful of campuses in the nation that has its entire grounds as a botanic garden.

Millier said he was inspired by Peter Raven, former director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, to expand the research conducted on the Mizzou Botanic Garden.

“He said, ‘You know, Pete, you have the opportunity to have the largest research arm of any botanical garden, not just in Missouri, but the United States. You have an entire university here.’ I was just tickled,” Millier said.

The Jefferson Statue Garden on the Francis Quadrangle, the Stephens pond and the Butterfly Garden are three of Millier’s favorite spots on campus.

“Every moment students are engaged positively in the campus is a moment they will take with them when they leave here,” Millier said. “They are surrounded by incredible beauty from the gardens and the architecture that creates a visceral connection to Mizzou.”