W. J. Beal Botanical Garden Flora, tranquility and community

August 1, 2018

By Mia Chinni | Woodrow Wilson HS, Mia Moeggenberg | Traverse City Central HS, Lauren Stallman | Traverse City Central HS and Katriel Tolin | University Liggett School

Amist countless buildings and massive sports fields a small oasis of nature rests in the center of the Michigan State University campus. With plants from around the world, the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is a common attraction. Tall trees reach far above a multitude of colorful flowers, long vines, agricultural plants and native insects. As small, white butterflies float by, visitors can learn about various plants, sit in the soft grass or even listen to live music.

Down a path on the far side of the garden, manager Katie McPeek explained how she leads a team of five others who care for the plants in the medicinal section.

“I enjoy mostly working outside,” McPeek. “Every morning we will see hawks, hummingbirds, swallow tail monarchs; just at the pond we have monarch chrysalis and goldfish.”

The garden is meant as a place for students and visitors alike to learn about plants and other wildlife. Each plants has a small description, telling its properties, uses and native locations.

Learning about the garden on a tour, along with the 30 Chinese exchange students from Beijing, is Mark.

“I think this is pretty beautiful. I wish my garden looked as nice,” Mark said. “And it’s nice that the school didn’t build a building or a parking lot, because a lot of times they do that. This is nice; hopefully the students look at it this way.”

The garden also provides a place for students to study; many people line the walkways, steps and benches on computers or reading books. Live music events are also hosted once a month in the summer and the next event will be held on August 16.

The botanical gardens staff is now preparing for the change in season and arrival of students so that the garden can continue to be a place of learning and quiet serenity.

Mia Moeggenberg lies down in the grass at the Michigan State University W. J. Beal Botanical Garden and laughs happily at comment that one of her friends and fellow feature reporters made. With bracelets on her wrist and and her hair sprawled out in all directions, Moeggenberg admits that the atmosphere does impact the laughs you have at the garden.

“It was very beautiful and peaceful,” Moeggenberg said.

Staring up at vines from below, one may feel very small. The Botanical Garden at MSU is full of what seems like endless amounts of growing beauty. These big leaves provide an example of just a fraction of what visitors can see there.

With the soundtrack of bumbling insects and loud construction work providing a cacophony of noise, the garden was quite abuzz. Both visitors and animals alike enjoyed the colorful array of flowers. The display offered various eye-catching buds tended to by the garden's staff everyday.

Many of the plant species in the garden were curated from different parts the world. While open to the public, the intent of the garden’s creation was to educate the students of MSU about plants and wildlife. The selection of flora provides examples of non-native greenery that flourish in various environments. A visit to the botanical garden offers a glimpse into gardens across the globe.

Garden manager Katie McPeek tends to the botanical garden by mowing the grass. She works on all the different sections of the garden.

“I’m here with a group of students from Beijing, China, and I found the ‘Chinese Vine,’” passerby Mark said of his favorite plant.

A busy bee lifted himself upon this yellow flower, one of the many joys of this garden. Visitors have the opportunity to acknowledge the little things and pay attention to wildlife for a moment.

“I love that every morning we’ll see hawks, hummingbirds, swallowtail, monarchs” Katie McPeek said.

Just inches above the ground, these violet colored flowers look towards the sky in hope of receiving their daily dose of water and sunlight. The diversity between living things here at the garden is very captivating. As well as being pretty to look at, the garden provides education for those who are there.

“The garden, to me, is an educational place to teach people about plants,” Adds Katie McPeek, Manager of the garden. Along the grass is a long line of descriptions about each plant. It’s almost as if they each have their own little name tag.

Towering over me, attempting to imitate the sun, is a yellow sunflower. Bringing it all to the table, this garden has things ranging from big to small. You might stumble upon a flower bud about to bloom, or a huge vine climbing to the sky, but one thing you can be sure to find is sheer beauty.

Some might say their seeing double, but no. It’s just two people named Mia. Mia Moeggenberg and Mia Chinni stare at the reflections from wonderful still-sitting pond in the MSU W.J. Beal Botanical Garden. Almost as if it were a mirror, the pond lets you look a the nature within it while also being able to look up at the sky all at the same time.

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