The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a hidden gem located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The core mission statement of the Botanical Garden is: “To inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature,” (Ncbg.unc.edu). For over 40 years, the North Carolina Botanical Garden has been a leading education center and plant conservation in the southeast, committed to serving the public.
The University of North Carolina’s first botany professor, William Chambers Coker is one of the main founders of the Botanical Garden. In 1903, Coker taught his students outdoors by showing them various plants and trees located on campus. In the mid 1920’s, Coker and one of his most passionate students, Henry Roland Totten, came up with the idea to create a larger, complete garden area just south of the main campus. Later, in 1952, Trustees of the University dedicated 70 acres for development of the garden, with another 103 acres donated shortly after.
William Lanier Hunt, a former student of both Coker and Totten not only donated those 103 acres for the Garden, but he also helped establish the Garden’s membership support organization, now known as the Botanical Garden Foundation. In April of 1966, the Garden had its first public opening, offering Nature Trails throughout the Garden for all to enjoy.
Over the years, the Garden has acquired major establishments, including the Coker Arboretum, the Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Battle Park, and the University of North Carolina Herbarium. The lands have expanded to over 700 acres and is now a nationally recognized conservation that offers a wide array of programs for those interested to participate in. Some of these programs include: conservation programs, horticultural therapy, botanical illustration, native plant studies, and educational collections.
In addition, the North Carolina Botanical Garden is a vital resource for experts studying wildflowers and native plants of North Carolina. Its Center for Plant Conservation is one of just 36 institutions throughout the United States to hold a National Collection of Endangered Species. The Garden is also a pioneer of various plant rescue techniques and was the first garden in North America to establish an exotic pest plant policy.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden is undoubtedly a beautiful resource that North Carolina is proud to own. For more information about the garden, please visit their website here.