Women’s Tennis courts originally occupied the site of the University of Wisconsin Botanical Garden. In 1959 a committee of Botany professors including Drs.Cottam, Skoog, Thomson, Staufer and Iltis proposed the creation of a Botanical Garden. The plan was submitted to then President Elvehjem and quickly became a favorite project of the late President. He formed a steering committee that included members of the Botany Department and Dr. Longenecker of the Horticultural Department who designed the layout of the beds. Planting started in 1961. Plant materials were initially acquired through the generosity of the Vilas House Estate and local garden club members as well as through collecting and purchase from commercial providers. Today some of the living materials used to renew the garden each spring is grown in the department’s 8,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

In 2004, with support of the Dean of College of Letter and Science Dr. Certain, Botany Department chairs Drs. Newcomb, Evert and Sytsma, chairs of the Botany Garden & Greenhouse committee Drs. Kowal and Adams and the former Director of Botany Garden and Greenhouses, Dr. Mo Fayyaz, the plot next to Lathrop became part of the Botany Garden and a new brick and iron rod fence was built to enclose the garden.

Expansion in 2004

The half-acre garden, situated along University Avenue between Chamberlin, Birge and Lathrop halls, was more than doubled in size to 1.2 acres. It gained a central plaza, benches, a pond with bridge and waterfall, a dry riverbed and other features.

This 2004-2006 expanded garden featured additional: trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals with more than 500 species representing over 140 families and 40 taxonomic orders of plants from all over the world. Most of the plants were planted according to their taxonomic classification, making it easier for people to identify plants according to their genetic relationships to one another.

The $500,000 expansion was paid for with gifts directed to the project. Financial support for the expansion came from Mrs Allen, the Class of 1952, State of Wisconsin, proceeds from the blooming of the Titan arum and from many friends of the Botany Garden. The garden has been expanded in scope to better provide for the needs of the Botany Department.

The Botany Department hopes to enhance the usefulness of this web site by allowing users to explore the garden from a remote location in any season. It is planned that from this page, visitors will be able to search a database of plantings and access information regarding their taxonomic information, photographs, natural habitats, location in the garden, etc.

*Images: Courtesy of University of Wisconsin Archive Images.