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History of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden

Time Line History of the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden

Shortly after his arrival at Michigan State Agricultural College, Prof. Beal stated the need for a campus botanic garden.

Prof. Beal establishes a nursery where he grows plants from a number of sources including Kew Gardens and the Arnold Arboretum.

Prof. Beal establishes test plots of 140 species of forage grasses and clovers along a small tributary of the Red Cedar River, north of West Circle Drive in an area which would become known as 'Sleepy Hollow.'

Prof. Beal establishes the Arboretum by planting two rows of swamp white oaks on north campus. The arboretum is located between Mary Mayo and Campbell halls, which were built in the 1930's.

Prof. Beal begins to refer to the expanded collection of plants long the small tributary as the Botanic Garden. Many students and local residents call the garden the Wild Garden.'

Inspired by Charles Darwin's book on hybrid vigor, and a letter from the famous scientist, Prof. Beal became the first to publish on increasing yield in corn through cross pollination studies. The cross increased corn yields by fifty-three percent.

Prof. Beal begins his classic seed viability study which continues to this date.

Prof. Beal initiates the first state Forestry Convention and serves as director of the first Michigan Forestry Commission.

Prof. Beal publishes first map of the Botanic Garden.

Early 1900s
Due to increasing pollution from surface runoff from the streets of East Lansing, the small stream which ran through the heart of the Botanic Garden is placed in a storm sewer and Sleepy Hollow is physically cut off from the rest of the garden when the small stone arch bridge for West Circle Drive is filled in.

Prof. Beal retires at the age of 77.

Johannes Uphof serves as curator.

Prof. Darlington is appointed director.

December 17, the State Board of Agriculture approved the recommendation of the Department of Botany to name the Botanic Garden the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, in honor of its founder who passed away on May 12 of that year.

Prof. Darlington hires Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew trainee, H. L. R. Chapman as head gardener and superintendent.

Prof. Darlington proposes expanding the Botanical Garden.

Perceived as too large of an expansion, Prof. Darlington is relieved of his duties as Garden Director by the College's Board of Trustees. Mr. Chapman was appointed curator.

State Board of Agriculture transferred the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden from the Botany Department to the Office of Campus Park and Planning for redesign, development and maintenance. Dr. William Drew, Chair of the Botany Department served as technical advisor.

July 1, Dr. C.L. Gilly, Assistant Professor of Botany appointed Curator of Botanical Collections.

The entire garden is reorganized and redesigned by Prof. Milton Baron, Landscape Architect. This created the four main collections present in today's garden: systematic, economic, ecological, and landscape.

Prof. Baron serves as curator with consulting from the Botany Department.

First recorded public guided tour of the Garden conducted by Prof. Baron on August 6.

W. J. Beal Botanical Garden commences participation in the international seed exchange program, publishing its first Index Seminum.

The American Society of Horticultural Science, in its meeting at Michigan State University, pronounced the Garden the finest teaching facility in the country.'

Dr. George W. Parmelee appointed curator. He introduces a new system of informative interpretive labels for garden plants and campus trees.

Mr. Johannes Wilbrink hired as Head Gardener and Assistant Curator.

Sleepy Hollow is re-incorporated as part of the Beal Botanical Garden and was modified to support a collection of acidophilous plants including rhododendrons, azaleas, and ferns.

The Michigan Horticultural Society recognized the Beal Botanical Garden as the outstanding campus-located botanical garden in the country.

Beal Centennial. A marker was unveiled in the garden, speeches presented and Governor William Milliken declared the second week of May 1973 as "William James Beal Week".

Dr. Gerard T. Donnelly appointed curator. He added the Endangered and Threatened Plant of Michigan collection and was the first to establish a computer database of accessions and a computer map of campus trees.

Dr. Donnelly accepts the appointment of Executive Director of the Morton Arboretum.

Mr. Thomas Kehler, Director of Campus Park & Planning, Dr. Gustaaf DeZoeten, Chair of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Provost Lou Anna K. Simon, and Vice President Roger Wilkinson work to re-engineer the operational structure of the Botanical Garden. The duties of the Curator are redefined with a joint appointment between Campus Park & Planning and the Department of Botany. A new position of Collections Manager is created.

January, Dr. Frank W. Telewski, Director of the Buffalo and Erie Botanical Garden is hired as Curator and Assistant Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology.

April, Ms Elaine M. Chittenden is hired as Collection Manager.

Dr. Telewski established the plant collections listserv (aabgacol) in cooperation with the Plant Collections Committee of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.

W. J. Beal Botanical Garden celebrates its 125th anniversary and hosts the Midwest regional meeting of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.

W. J. Beal Botanical Garden adopts a new logo which incorporates an image of the mullein flower (Verbascum), representing the only genus to germinate consistently in the Beal Seed Viability Experiment.

For the first time in 70 years, the Garden once again actively participates in the Beal Seed Viability study when Dr. Telewski unearths the 120th year bottle with Dr. Jan Zeevaart in April.

The Botanical Garden is voted "Most Romantic Place" in the Greater Lansing's People's Choice competition.

Work begins on the establishment of the Non-Flowering Vascular Plant Collection.

Professor William J. Beal's Personal History

Born March 11, in Adrian, Michigan

Attended the University of Michigan, and earned his BA

Attended Harvard University earned BS studying under Asa Gray

First lecture at Michigan State Agricultural College (MAC) July 9

Professor of Botany and Horticulture, MAC

Earned MS from University of Chicago

Awarded honorary Ph.D. from University of Michigan

Professor of Botany and Forestry, MAC

Earned Doctorate of Science MAC

Retired from MAC, moved to Amherst, MA, to be with his daughter and

Published first history book of MAC

Died peacefully in his sleep on May 12, at the age of 91