W. J. Beal Botanical Garden: A Natural Laboratory

If you ever visit the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, it would serve you well to visit the thriving and fertile W.J. Beal Botanical Garden at the center of campus.

In 1873, back when the school was still an agricultural college, the garden was no more than some beds of grasses and clover planted by Professor William James Beal in a valley by the creek. Today, this expansive botanical garden in an area once known as “Sleepy Hollow” offers students and researchers at Michigan State University the opportunity to learn and work in a living, natural laboratory of sorts. 

A Catalog of Life

The numerous beds of plants that comprise the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden are neatly arranged so as to highlight the different ways that humans have benefited from plants over the years. Some beds contain plants with industrial uses, such as those devoted to fibers and dyes, while others highlight medicinal or nutritional purposes, like those for honey and plants with pharmacological benefits.

Each of the categories is explained with clear and meticulous labels which show scientific and ecological information about the plants featured. These labels also explain the human innovations that such plants have helped support. The categorization helps make the gardens into a sort of living library of botany — even the hills around the garden are planted so as to showcase different regional flowers that can be found in Michigan! 

A Place To Learn

While anyone who visits the W.J. Beal Botanic Garden is sure to learn a thing or two about plants, the garden also provides a huge benefit to the university. Students use the garden to further their learning in fields like forestry, botany, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, and much more. Having the garden directly on campus makes it easy for professors to integrate real-life botanical learning into their courses and to give their students hands-on experience in the field. The fact that the garden is free and open to the public is just icing on the cake!