More than 100 plants, flowers, shrubs, and grasses native to Johnson County, Iowa, have been sowed, including echinacea, purple prairie clover, white wild indigo, rough blazing star, and button snakeroot.
Monday, September 18, 2023

The Engineering Staff Advisory Council has installed the ESAC Pollinator Garden on the back side of the Seamans Center. The ESAC Pollinator Garden is the University of Iowa's first project as part of the Bee Campus USA initiative, which commits to reduce pesticides, provide educational opportunities for pollinator conservation, and increase native plantings.  

A group of approximately 15 volunteers, supported by Campus Arborist Andy Dahl, UI Landscape Services, and Dominic Balestrieri-Fox, of the Bee Campus USA committee, sowed more 100 plants on Sept. 12, 2023. Balestrieri-Fox designed the garden and selected the plants. The planting area is approximately 9’ by 18’ and the intent is to expand the footprint in the future. The garden is expected to take a few years to mature. 

Garden specs include: 

  • More than 100 plants, flowers, shrubs, and grasses native to Johnson County, Iowa, including at least 20 species.
  • Plant species include echinacea, purple prairie clover, white wild indigo, rough blazing star, button snakeroot, milkweed, foxglove beard tongue, purple coneflower, smooth blue aster, New Jersey tea shrubs, and several more. 

A pollinator garden is an example of pollinator habitat, which is an area consisting of a variety of flowering plants to provide food, water, and shelter for Monarch butterflies, bees, birds, and other pollinators. According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, pollinators are responsible for approximately one third of the food and drink we consume, and the value of crop pollination has been estimated between $18 and $27 billion annually in the United States (about $83 per person). 

ESAC, a shared governance partner that represents staff in the College of Engineering, has been planning the garden for nearly a year, coordinating with College of Engineering leadership and partners across campus. Funding for the garden came from ESAC, a UI LiveWell Wellness Grant, and UI Staff Council Coca-Cola Fund Grant.

ESAC’s sustainability committee proposed the garden to:  

  • Support the university's dedication to expand pollinator habitat on campus and its Bee Campus USA affiliation.
  • Beautify underused space outside the Seamans Center for the enjoyment of faculty, staff, and students within the College of Engineering and many others on campus.  
  • Promote sustainability by reducing resources needed for upkeep and helping to trap rainwater runoff.
  • Align with disciplines and values of the College of Engineering.