UC Botanical Garden

In the 1870s, a small garden of economic plants those we use for food, shelter, medicines, textiles and more was established where Moffitt Library now stands. An official UC Botanical Garden was planted in 1890 near Haviland Hall, around a large glass conservatory modeled after the London Crystal Palace.

Campus development in the 1920s forced the garden onto 34 hilly acres in Strawberry Canyon, which was purchased by the university in 1909. Plantings were organized by their geographical origins. University expeditions to the Andes, Bolivia, China, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and other areas furthered the gardens collections.

Today, the research garden and museum is known throughout the world for its diverse plant collection, which includes many rare and endangered plants. With few exceptions, all plants have complete data on their natural origins, providing substantial value to researchers worldwide. Plants and seeds continue to be collected by researchers in the field and through exchanges with other gardens and institutions.

As part of their coursework, many UC Berkeley students do projects in the garden. All introductory biology classes visit the garden several times a semester. Physicists have built a magnometer there, and several professors have done studies on trees in the Redwood Grove. A civil engineering class currently is installing five weather stations that will generate data to be shared online with the public about air temperature, humidity and soil moisture in the gardens many microclimates. This information will help gardeners control irrigation and know the conditions needed by certain plants to thrive.

Currently, the garden is emphasizing and selling water-wise plants that can be raised successfully in a drought.

In addition to student visitors from 19 other colleges in the region, thousands of K-12 schoolchildren visit the garden annually. Its open all but six days a year. Other programs draw families, artists, foodies, ethnobotany enthusiasts and music lovers.

In December, classes are offered on making holiday nature crafts with plants, and every Friday through Christmas, award-winning poets set up a table to talk with visitors and create poetry between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The garden is filled with animals and has its own field guide, the Illustrated Guide to Common Animals of the East Bay Hills. Saturday morning bird walks and fauna-related classes are held year-round, as well as an April bird sit, which emphasizes quiet listening to all the gardens sounds.

The garden had 70,000 visitors last year, 23,000 of them paying guests. Its facilities are used for many events, including conferences, memorials, club meetings, retreats, holiday celebrations and weddings. So far in 2015, 86 weddings have taken place there, most of them in the Redwood Grove.

Faculty, staff and students with a campus I.D. have free entry. From Monday through Friday, a shuttle from Hearst Mining Circle arrives at the garden every few minutes. You can bring your lunch to the garden, says garden director Paul Licht, and be back in time for a 1 p.m. class.