August 22, 2012 – North Carolina Botanical Garden, NC
(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Nate Tschaenn)
It was an overcast day with a little bit of drizzle when we were greeted by Johnny Randall and Dan Stern at the entrance of the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG). Dr. Randall is the director of Conservation Programs, and Stern, a former LGP Fellow (class of 2010) is currently the manager of the Sentinel Plant Network. The NCBG is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the history of the Garden dates back to 1903 when William Chambers Coker, the University’s first professor of botany, began planting a teaching collection of trees and shrubs on the central campus. The Botanical Garden Foundation was founded in 1966, and now NCBG covers about 1,000 acres.
Known as a “Conservation Garden,” the NCBG has very clear mission, which is to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas. We looked around the main visitor site of the NCBG, which is comprised of the Display Gardens and Education Center. Walking along the boardwalk through the Costal Plain Habitat Garden, Dr. Randall explained that this garden is a real piece of an ecosystem that literally has been moved from the actual coastal plain area. This habitat garden is burned once in a year, normally between January and February, to revitalize those fire-adapted plants in the same way as the original habitat.
As a founding institution of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), the NCBG has been actively involved in ex-situ conservation conducting many important projects, such as their seed bank program, as well as rare plant reintroduction program. Using a series of raised beds, the Native Water Gardens and Carnivorous Plant Collection show that the North Carolina is a hotbed of carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants, sundews, and butterworts.
The new Education Center was dedicated in 2009, and it’s the state’s first public museum and outreach center to earn LEED platinum status. This facility features photovoltaic panels, geothermal wells, rainwater cisterns, storm-water retention, clerestory windows for natural lighting, and many others. Surprisingly, all the funds for this project were donated by nearly 600 individual donors.
We headed up to the Coker Arboretum at the UNC campus, which is two miles away from NCBG. Margo MacIntyre, the Curator of the Arboretum guided us throughout the 5 acres of secured area. The Arboretum features Southeastern American native woody plants as well as Southeastern Asian native plants for comparison.
Finally, Dan Stern gave us a short history about the Wisteria Arbor, which was completely rebuilt in 1997 with five types of native climbers to demonstrate the examples of what we should plants and what not. We learned a lot about how to put conservation efforts into botanical garden settings, and really appreciated the hospitality of the staff today.