On August 30, 2005, the second year Fellows and the Director of the Longwood Graduate Program visited the University of California Botanical Garden (UCBG) in Berkeley, California. While visiting, the Fellows met with Director, Dr. Paul Licht, Associate Director of Collections, Mr. Chris Carmichael, and a portion of the horticulture staff.
The mission of UCBG is, "to develop and maintain a diverse collection of plants to support the teaching and worldwide research in plant biology, further the conservation of plant diversity, and promote public understanding and appreciation of plants and the natural environment."
UCBG was established in 1890 but was not officially opened until 1923. In 1969, the Garden was moved from its original site on the main campus to its present site, Strawberry Canyon . This thirty-four acre location contains over 12,000 taxa from around the world. The Garden's collections have been arranged according to geographic origin.. and almost all of its 18,000 specimens have been wild-collected.
UCBG considers its plant collections to be its greatest asset. Approximately one-third of the Garden is dedicated to preserving and displaying the native flora of California. UCBG also has an arrangement in place with the United States government whereby some illegally collected plant materials that enter the country will be redirected to the Garden. This arrangement has resulted in the Garden's careful stewardship of several hundred, recently-seized cycads.
The Garden currently employs twenty horticulture professionals. Each member of the horticulture staff has an official title of "museum scientist." While this title might seem unusal, UCBG wishes to promote and accentuate the museum parallel of UCBG. Each museum scientist is required to have a complete understanding of all the plants within his or her section. At the same time, museum scientists are responsible for bringing in new accessions, keeping plant records, maintaining an aesthetically appealing section, teaching classes, and performing numerous other duties, as required. It was apparent that all horticulture staff takes great pride in what they do as an integral part to UCBG.
UCBG also employs a Volunteer Coordinator supervising 206 volunteers; a Visitor Services Manager supervises Facilities Rental and Purchasing Managers, and Visitor Center Attendants. In addition to these positions, a Membership Coordinator doubles as a graphic artist. The Garden also has a Board of Advisors comprised of University faculty that takes a "hands off approach" to governance. UCBG also has 1,500 members who help support the Garden through annual membership fees.
Volunteers play a critical role at UCBG; they are integral to the daily operations of the Garden, and provide over 20,000 person-hours annually. They serve as docents, plant propagators, special event attendants, and other vital positions.
Funding for UCBG comes from three main sources: the University of California itself, private donors, and rented facilities. Dr. Licht stressed that the University's support is diminishing, and future funding will need to be solicited from private donations, and from a reinvigorated Friends organization. The Director also feels that facility rentals will prove to be a substantial profit center for the Garden. Just recently, UCBG has undertaken a creative entrepreneurial endeavor by transforming one of its greenhouses into a facility rental space. With only a twenty-five thousand dollar investment to support the transformation, UCBG transformed an old greenhouse into a space that can be rented for weddings, conferences, and other uses.
The Garden has recently collaborated with its Friends organization to renovate the entrance, which for many years had poorly served its purpose and was not up to the aesthetic standards of the institution. The renovation included a new patio constructed of semi-permeable materials facilitating more efficient drainage.
The future of UCBG looks bright. The organizational structure of the Garden is firming up and clear reporting lines are developing. Plant collections are continuously growing and show no signs of decline. The need for infrastructure improvement is a focus of the Garden and includes the addition of major paved roads for universal ease of access to the Garden. The future also holds a strong focus on fundraising for the Garden. UCBG will continue to look for other creative ways to raise money. Entrepreneurial activities, facility rentals and endowment development that will help to support staff activities maintenance costs, and future growth of the Garden. UCBG will undoubtedly continue to serve as an authority for a diverse array of Californian flora. The dedication and pride of the staff, as well as the leadership of the Garden will help to sustain the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley throughout the twenty-first century and beyond.