About Us
Berkeley Natural History Museum Logo University of California Botanical Garden at BerkeleyUC Botanical Garden at Berkeley --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720-5045 |P:510-643-2755 |F:510-642-5045garden@berkeley.edu|

"To develop and maintain a diverse living collection of plants to support 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."

Who We Are
The UC Botanical Garden is a non-profit research garden and museum for the University of California at Berkeley, having a notably diverse plant collection including many rare and endangered plants. Established in 1890, the Garden, which is open to the public year round, has over 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world, cultivated by region in naturalistic landscapes over its 34 acres.


A small garden of economic plants was established on the Berkeley campus on the site currently occupied by Moffit Library in the 1870’s by Dr. Eugene W. Hilgard (1833-1916), founding Dean of Agriculture . The University of California Botanical Garden was formally established in 1890 by E. L. Greene, the first chairman of the Department of Botany, to form a living collection of the native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants of the State of California, with the intent to gather in as rapidly as possible those of the neighboring states of the Pacific Coast. Within two years the collection numbered 600 species. In the following decade it grew to 1500, but then began to expand both its scope and collection to encompass plants from all continents and about 10,000 species.

The original official Garden was located near Haviland Hall on the north side of campus centered around a large glass conservatory modeled after the London Crystal Palace .


Conservatory of original Botanical Garden taken on Haviland site around 1912.

  • Built 1894-5 at a cost of $16,000 by the architectural firm of Lord & Burnham, Irving , N.Y. 6,200 sq. ft.; 170 feet long; glass and steel.

  • Modeled on the famous London Crystal Palace (like the one in Golden Gate Park ).

  • Razed in 1924 in conjunction with the construction of Haviland Hall by John Galen Howard. The Conservatory was reported too old to be moved.





(LEFT) An archeological dig by the Department of Anthropology led by Prof. Laurie Wilkie in 2003 on the site of Haviland Parking lot when plans were being made to construct the new C.V. Starr East Asian Library uncovered remnants of the conservatory unearthed remnants of the conservatory.







(RIGHT) In 1894, the University of California built a glass conservatory to conduct agricultural experiments and raise seedlings and flowers. By 1923, the building was considered outdated and removed. In 2003, UC archaeologists conducted preliminary excavations at the site and determined that material remains and foundations are still preserved at the site and offer the opportunity to study the practice of agricultural science at the site, as well as to inform us about how campus spaces were used by students and faculty alike. This summer, students will be involved in conducting broad scale excavations at the site, and will learn basic historic materials analysis. Email Professor Wilkie at wilkie@sscl.berkeley.edu for more information.


In the 1920's plans for campus development forced the Botanical Garden out of its initial central campus location (actually, the site remained a parking lot until 2007). Under the auspices of then Garden director T. Harper Goodspeed the Garden was relocated to its current position on 34 acres in Strawberry Canyon above the main campus, using a landscaping scheme created by J. W. Gregg in the Department of Landscape Design. In moving to the new location Goodspeed codified the principle that the Garden's plantings are to be organized according to their geographical origins in settings resembling the native habitats. This principle continues to dominate Garden policy.


Following the move to Strawberry Canyon major early additions were made to the collections including the Rhododendron Dell, the New World Desert and associated cactus and succulent collections and the California Redwood Grove (now Stephen J. Mather Redwood Grove). These were followed by the addition of the Chinese Dawn Redwoods (Metasequia) from one of the earliest expeditions to China by a Berkeley paleobotanist.

  • Strawberry Canyon purchased by the University in 1909. Setchell almost immediately began to importune Wheeler for land for the botanical garden, which was becoming seriously crowded by John Galen Howard’s building plan on the central campus.

  • By 1920 a small tract had been made available for the Nicotiana experiments and for growing materials for classes.

  • Actual move accomplished in the 1920’s. Planning and supervision of the construction was done by Goodspeed, using a landscaping scheme created by Professor J. W. Gregg in the Department of Landscape Design.

  • Goodspeed established the policy of grouping plants by geographic affinities (in contrast to grouping by taxonomic affinities or economic usage).


Goodspeed initiated a series of six expeditions to the Andes (carried out between 1935 and 1958). Their primary objective was to collect all species of the genus Nicotiana (tobacco and its close relatives) , with determination of their ranges. A secondary objective was collection of Andean plants in botanically unknown areas, and which led to the acquisition of a magnificent collection of South American cacti and succulents This was enlarged in the late 1940's by R. J. Rodin with a singularly large collection of succulents from southern Africa . Other significant additions in the Goodspeed era were the acquisition of specimens from the rediscovered grove of dawn redwoods in China and the planting of a five-acre grove of Californian coast redwoods.


  • James West (aka Prince Egon von Ratibor) laid out an extensive rock garden in 1932 which was planted with plants from his own personal collection. As a member of the first Andean expedition in 1935, West further enriched the collection. With additional accessions from subsequent South American expeditions, the cactus and succulent collection became One of the most important accumulations of plants of research value grown in the Botanical Garden.

  • Robert J. Rodin, as part of a University expedition to Africa in 1947-48, added a singularly large collection of succulents from southern Africa to the Garden.

  • These collections have grown. The Arid House rebuilt in 2000 and associated holding facilities combined with outdoor plantings now houses one of the countries largest collections of cacti and succulents.


Following Goodspeed's retirement in the 1950's the Garden directorship passed to Herbert Baker. Under his tenure (1957-1969) the collections were further expanded . A seventh expedition, to Bolivia and Peru in 1964, was carried out by garden botanist Paul Hutchison, which added more succulents as well as tropical plants to the collections. Notable additions included major collections from Mesoamerica , Australia and New Zealand , expansion of the Californian native plant collection, and development of a section for economic plants. Baker instituted a major policy change: other than for a few special exceptions all plants accessioned by the Garden must have complete data on their natural origins. Adherence to this policy has endowed the collection with substantial value for researchers world wide.


In the 1970's and 1980's, the Garden made a major change in its orientation. Previously the Garden's principal functions were support of instruction in botany on the Berkeley campus and scientific research -- Goodspeed became the leading authority of his time on the biosystematics of Nicotiana, and Baker is renowned for his research on plant ecological genetics. Under the leadership of Watson Laetsch in 1969-74 and later Robert Ornduff (1974-1991) the Garden launched into a program of outreach to the wider community, becoming the only one of the five natural history museums at Berkeley that is open to the public. A docent program was inaugurated in 1974. Each year the Garden's corps of almost 100 docents lead many hundreds of tours for thousands of school children, adults, and university students.

In 1989, the Garden was placed under the control of the College of Natural Resources and was then transferred to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research in 1996. During this decade, there was a succession of five acting directors and directors following the long tenure of Robert Ornduff.


The old Entrance consisted of a chain link fence and gate that both visitors and vehicles shared, often together. In 2005, a new Entrance and plaza were completed.









In 2003, the Directorship was assumed by Dr. Paul Licht, Professor Emeritus, Department of Integrative Biology. The construction of a new entrance to the Garden ushered in a period of revitalization of the infrastructure and an increased reliance on non-state funding. The Garden was initially funded entirely by state funds but is state funds now account for less than one-half of the annual budget.

Fund raising and revenue generation are critical to the Garden’s budget. The Friends of the Botanical Garden was established in 1976 as a support group for fundraising and, more importantly, for involving the general public in volunteer activities. Although the formal Friends group was dissolved in 1997, a community of about 250 volunteers continue to support all activities in the Garden. In addition to the docents, a corps of volunteer propagators raises a significant portion of the Garden’s budget through two annual plant sales (spring and fall) and daily plant sales from the Garden Shop nursery. Volunteers staff the Garden Shop, which offers a wide selection of garden-related books and gifts. Additional volunteers donate time and labor in assistance to the horticultural and curatorial staff. Members of the Garden help support its programs and operations.


In recent years the Garden's programmatic emphasis has broadened to include conservation, interpretation, and educational outreach emphasizing evolution, ecology and human uses of plants. Accessions are mostly made through active participation in seed exchanges rather then on staff expeditions. Priorities are on making the best use of what we already have to further enhance the experience of visitors and to spark increased educational and research activities.









Garden Leadership

Edward L. Greene

1885 - 1895

First Professor of Botany;
Founded the Garden in 1890.

William A. Setchell

1895 - 1934

Professor & Chairman of Botany

Joseph Burtt-Davy

1895 - 1902

In charge of the Garden

Harvey Monroe Hall

1902 - 1919

In charge of the Garden
and also the Herbarium.

T. Harper Goodspeed

1919 - 1926
1926 - 1934
1934 - 1954
1954 - 1957

In charge of the Garden
Acting Director

Herbert G. Baker

1957 - 1969


Watson M. Laetsch

1969 - 1974


Robert Ornduff

1974 - 1991


Margaret S. Race

1991 - 1993

Acting Director

George S. Rogers

1993 - 1995


Philip T. Spieth

1995 - 1996

Acting Director

Ian S.E. Carmichael

1996 – 1998

Acting Director

Ellen L. Simms

1999 – 2003


Paul Licht

2003 -


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