Celebrating 50 years in bloom

The North Carolina Botanical Garden's reach has grown to include a number of locations on campus including the Forest Theatre, Coker Arboretum, Battle Park and UNC herbarium located in Coker Hall.

Ken Moore stands in the Botanical Gardens.
Ken Moore NC Botanical Gardens. (Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

When he was a graduate student in 1968, Ken Moore was approached by botany professor Ritchie Bell, who was looking for someone to help out around the North Carolina Botanical Garden for the summer.

The next day, Moore was using garden tools, items salvaged from the dump and a few work-study students to construct a public nature trail — on a shoe-string budget.

“Ritchie used to leave me notes saying ‘Ken, take the truck down to the landfill because there are some old carts of refrigerators and washing machines and we can use them for plant trays,’” Moore said.

Moore ultimately went on to become the garden’s first paid employee. And nearly 50 years later, as the North Carolina Botanical Garden celebrates its 50th anniversary, Moore continues to serve the garden by teaching plant identification courses for the Botanical Studies Certificate Program and leading trips to the Mason Farm Biological Reserve.

Established by the University as a learning and research center for students in the botany department, the garden opened to the general public in 1966. Through the years, the garden’s reach has grown to include a number of locations on campus including the Forest Theatre, Coker Arboretum, Battle Park and UNC herbarium located in Coker Hall.

But the North Carolina Botanical Garden’s — and Moore’s — goals have always remained the same.

Today, Moore’s mission is to educate the community, budding botanists and the next generation of policy-makers about the importance of conservation and sustainability.

He encourages visitors to “step back and take an appreciative look at the natural world,” and hopes they leave the garden more enlightened about “where we are, what we have done and how we can take part in taking ‘softer footprints’ on the earth.”

In addition to cultivating environmental conservation and providing a home to more than 2,000 native plant species, the garden also:

  • creates ways for immune-compromised children to interact with nature in their hospital beds
  • grows healthy, sustainable produce for the University’s lowest wage earners
  • prepares students for careers in conservation, ecology and field botany

The Botanical Garden and the Botanical Garden Foundation will be hosting a 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 22 at the DuBoise House in Chapel Hill followed by a presentation at the Rizzo Conference Center next door.

For more details and information, visit ncbg.unc.edu.