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Botanical Garden celebrates 150th with going green message

As months of tan fields and gray give way to the color of spring, the Missouri Botanical Garden is teaching visitors the importance of being “green.”

As part of the commemoration of its 150th anniversary, the Botanical Garden will feature six experts who will discuss environmental issues that have an impact on people, plants and the planet. The Global Garden Speaker Series is part of the Botanical Garden’s goal to help people throughout the world conserve and manage Earth’s resources and ecosystems.

Topics deal with issues including medicinal plants, the population crash of honeybees, climate changes and the role of nature in children’s growth. The series begins March 26 and continues on April 23, June 18, Aug. 20, and Oct. 15. Each day has lectures at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Botanical Garden’s Shoenberg Theater, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis.

Cost is $10 each for afternoon sessions and $15 each for the evening lectures. Cost to Botanical Garden members is $5 per afternoon lecture and $10 per evening event. Tickets may be purchased at For general information about the Botanical Garden, call the recorded hotline at 314-577-9400.

Natural medicine

Chris Kilham will open the series on March 26. Kilham is “Explorer in Residence” at the University of Missouri in Amherst and has been referred to as the “Indiana Jones of natural medicine.”

Kilham travels the world seeking plants that could cure illnesses, ease pain or serve other medicinal uses. He teaches ethnobotany and hosts television specials about his search for medicinal plants in jungles, deserts and high-altitude areas. Kilham is an advocate for holistic health and plans to discuss the adverse effects of climate change, deforestation, and species depletion of potential life-saving cures found in nature.

Death of honeybees

On April 23, Dr. May Berenbaum will discuss the sudden and mysterious population crash of honeybees and the effects on our food chain. Berenbaum is chairman of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois and is considered the nation’s leading expert on the topic. She is known for her down-to-earth explanation of the world of bugs and insects that play a role in plant life.

Berenbaum is the author of four books, including “Bugs in the System: Insects and Their Impact on Human Affairs” and “Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Climate change

Dr. David Wolfe, professor of plant ecology at Cornell University, is the speaker for June 18. Wolfe is considered a leading authority on climate change and the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on plants, soils and ecosystems. He will address issues such as the effect of warmer temperatures on the important interactions of species. For example, if plants bloom earlier, will the pollinators show up earlier, too? If a bird nests earlier, will the caterpillars it feeds its young be there when they hatch?

Wolfe has studied how the disruption of species interactions could impair the ecosystems that provide the planet with clean water, food and other human needs. Wolfe tells tales of the underground, where a pinch of soil could contain 60 million microbes.

Tree rings evidence

History through tree-ring research is the topic of the July 23 lecture. Dr. Tom Swetnam, director of the world’s premier tree-ring research laboratory at the University of Arizona, will present his unique view of climate change. Swetnam reads tree rings to track drought, temperature changes and fires throughout history. A professor of dendrochronology (the study of environmental and cultural history using tree rings), he is considered a world expert on the “Age of Mega-fires” that occurred across the country.

In his research, Swetnam has shown that warmer temperatures since the 1980s have caused the fire season to increase by more than two months and have sparked four times more fires. He will discuss the possibility of a forest apocalypse because trees take in carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and release oxygen. In an interview on 60 Minutes, Swetnam predicted there is a reasonable chance that half the forests of the West could be lost.

Fruit hunter

On August 20, Adam Gollner will discuss ecological issues in the diversity of fruit. Gollner is the author of The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession. Armed with “fruit props” few people have ever seen, Adam explains that fruits are delicious, medicinal, hallucinogenic and lethal. According to Gollner, fruits have led nations to war, fueled dictatorships, and lured people into new worlds.

Gollner discusses the life of mass-produced fruits and how they are created, grown, and marketed. He explores the underworld of fruit that is inaccessible, ignored and even forbidden in the Western world.

Children and nature

In the last lecture of the series, 2008 Audubon Medal winner Richard Louv will discuss the role of nature in the health of children. Louv is author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

Louv is chairman of the Children and Nature Network. He contends that children and the nature movement are fueled by the fundamental idea that the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.

Louv uses cutting-edge studies to show that direct exposure to nature is essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. He presents growing evidence that links the lack of nature in children’s lives with a rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression.

Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at

 91st Annual Orchid Show information

Learn more about the Garden’s orchid collection and its history through a free audio commentary. Download the commentary to an mp3 player in advance by visiting, or use your cell phone to listen during your visit. Call (314) 558-4357 or toll-free (408) 794-0870, and follow the prompts. The call is free, but minutes will be applied per individual cell plans. If you become inspired to grow your own orchids, the Garden Gate Shop stocks a large selection of orchid plants, books and gardening accessories for both beginners and experienced growers. Proceeds support the Garden. Admission to the Orchid Show is $3 per person, in addition to Garden admission ($8 adults; $4 residents of St. Louis City or County; free children ages 12 and under). Garden members are admitted free. Photographers are welcome to use hand-held cameras to capture the show for personal enjoyment; tripod and monopod usage is not permitted indoors. The 2009 Orchid Show is sponsored by World Outdoor Emporium. The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis. For more information, visit or call the recorded hotline at (314) 577-9400 or 1 (800) 642-8842. The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest continually operating botanical garden in the nation, and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Its mission is to “discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment, in order to preserve and enrich life. “ It is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display. The Botanical Garden is located just south of I-44 at Vandeventer-Kingshighway (exit #287B). It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Dec. 25. (A section of the I-64/U.S. 40 highway is under construction through 2009. Before traveling, check for updates or visit for other helpful information.) The grounds open at 7 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday. Admission is $8, but is free children to ages 12 and under and to garden members. Cost is $4 for St. Louis and St. Louis County residents, who get in free every Wednesday. Parking is free on site and two blocks west at the Shaw-Vandeventer intersection. For membership information, call 314- 577-5118 during weekday business hours. To volunteer, call 314-577-5187. The Botanical Garden is a tobacco-free environment.

(Note: The Garden’s main vehicle entrance at 4344 Shaw Blvd. will be under construction through March 2009 for improvements. Follow signs to temporary parking lot entrances around the corners at 2019 Tower Grove Ave. and 1940 Alfred Ave. A section of the I-64/U.S. 40 highway is under construction through 2009. Before traveling, check for updates or visit for other helpful information.)

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