Garden founder Henry Shaw’s vision has served as the foundation for the growth and prominence of the Missouri Botanical Garden. For more than 150 years, the mission “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life” has guided the Garden’s work locally and around the world. Looking ahead, a new Strategic Plan will guide the Garden through 2020. The objectives in the plan are central to the achievement of the Garden’s mission.
The Garden’s role as a global leader in the conservation of plant diversity, coupled with its impactful role as a cultural institution engaging diverse audiences, constitute the heart of the plan. Effective organizational capabilities and a strong and sustainable financial base for operations will provide the support and structure to achieve the goals. “The new plan’s implementation doesn’t represent a new beginning,” says Garden President Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson. “In large part, it reflects who we are today and builds on the directions we have been moving in the last six years. We know that we are already heading strongly in these directions, and I am optimistic and excited about our shared future in this work.”
Today, the Garden’s mission has never been more relevant or important. Plant diversity, the world’s greatest renewable natural resource, is being lost at an alarming rate. There is an urgency to discover, document, and conserve this diversity before it is too late. This discovery, though, must be accompanied by the dissemination of that knowledge. The power of plants can only be harnessed when shared with every visitor, scientist, home gardener, government official, community leader, and school child—in short, every person possible.
Shaw’s inspiration to open the Missouri Botanical Garden came from the great gardens and estates of Europe. However, he wanted it to be more than just a display garden, so by the time it opened its doors to the public in 1859, Shaw’s dual vision of the Garden as a horticultural attraction and botanical science institution became a reality.
So, too, did the mission. Today, the terms “discover” and “share” mean many things at the Garden. There is discovery of plant knowledge—a species that’s new to science, a new use for a plant, or the hazards that threaten a plant’s existence—and horticulture discovery—how to best grow plants, care for them, and select them for a biodiverse landscape. Living collections and banked seed are protected from the pressures that threaten rare species in the wild and help ensure that these species survive into the future. Our understanding of the 300,000 plant species that are known to science is dependent on herbarium collections. Of the perhaps 100,000 species still awaiting discovery and description, it may be that a third to half are already in our herbarium, but currently either unidentified or misidentified.
Our members and visitors also discover something about the plant world through the wide variety of annual and permanent plant displays; the hundreds of classes for children, adults, and families offered each year; or the special lectures and signature events that fill our calendar year after year.
If knowledge is power, then with that power comes the responsibility to share it. Making more than 150 years of information about plants available to the world is one of the pillars of the Garden’s mission. Shaw intended that the Garden be a garden for the world. As such, the Garden’s valuable collections support activities, events, and outreach learning opportunities that foster engagement in the community and around the world.
The Garden’s trajectory of engagement and learning is second to none. Serving as a world-class institution and treasured community resource, the Garden shares the world of plants and nature with diverse audiences in ways that engage and inspire.
Sharing plant knowledge also means making it accessible to those who teach others—teachers making plant science curriculum connections or Master Gardeners lending expert advice—and those who will become tomorrow’s botanists, ecologists, and conservationists. So whether it’s through the world’s largest botanical database, TROPICOS®; a graduate program whose ripples spread around the world; or a seed-growing activity for kids, the Garden shares the wonders of plants with the world in countless ways. Connecting people with nature ensures that current and future generations can continue to enjoy and care for plants and the environment, thus helping to improve the quality of life for all.