Gardens are a great way to appreciate the diversity and beauty of plant life, with the added benefit that they draw in many kinds of insects and other arthropods, birds, and even mammals (like rabbits and squirrels—not always appreciated by gardeners). In Wyoming, there are nearly 3000 species of vascular plants that support perhaps five times as many animal species, 90% of which are insects. The relationship between plants and insects benefits both parties: While many insects feed upon plants, many plants rely on insects for the crucial service of pollination. As plants have struggled for eons to simultaneously inhibit insect herbivory and attract insect pollinators, they have evolved into a myriad of forms—beautiful, poisonous, delicious, or inedible—that form the foreground of every Wyoming landscape.
The Biodiversity Institute maintains several biodiversity gardens around the Berry Center, each highlighting different components of Wyoming’s native flora. Click on the gardens below or scroll down to learn more about floral diversity at the Berry Center.
The Berry Prairie | The Penstemon Garden | The Indian Paintbrush Garden
Rather than traditional metal, shingled, or stone roof, a large part of the Berry Center's roof is now covered in soil and native Wyoming plants ranging from cacti to wildflowers to shrubs. This space located between the Berry Center and the Geology building, above the Museum of Vertebrates. Visitors are welcome!
The 3,600 square foot green roof was included in the design to serve as:
A natural insulation for the Vertebrate Collection and heat sink for the hot Laramie sun,
An educational space to show campus visitors, faculty and students the wide variety of plants native to the Laramie area,
An exploration facility to experiment with attracting native pollinators, spiders, beetles, and other matrix-level species, and
A research station to explore green roof plant-related processes, particularly at Laramie's high elevation, including species-specific mortality, seed set, pollination rates, and more.
The exact number and make up the species on the Berry Prairie is in constant flux. A more-or-less current list is available here.
The Berry Center's Penstemon garden was established in 2012, largely through the hard work of our summer gardening intern. Joseph turned soil, added gravel, and traveled widely to purchase specimens of as many species as possible. Most of Wyoming's species are not found in cultivation, so we also grow plants from seed. The garden is not restricted to Wyoming species, but we hope to increase the number of natives over the years. We are also interested in finding out which non-native species do well in Laramie.
Download our brochure on Penstemon gardening!
Many gardeners would like to grow Indian paintbrush, but because of the difficulty of establishing the host along with thepaintbrush, it can be quite difficult. Jenna, our 2013 gardening intern, scoured the literature for host recommendations that could be grown here, then purchased plants of three host species and two Castilleja species to establish her trials. She also transplanted paintbrush from her parents' property in Colorado and planted seedlings of two more species. Over the years, both paintbrushes and host plants have expanded in the garden, making for a colorful summer show.
The Paintbrush Garden is located just to the south of the Berry Center, next to the brown building sign.
Host plants: Artemisia frigida (fringed sage), Penstemon eatonii (firecracker penstemon), Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain beardtongue)
Paintrush species: Castilleja angustifolia, C. chromosa, C. integra, C. sessiliflora
The newest gardens at the Berry Center are designed to attract and support pollinators. This means more than providing pollen and nectar--though that is important--but also providing host plants for larvae (especially in the case of moths and butterflies) and appropriate places for nesting (especially for bees). These gardens contain a diversity of flower shapes and colors, bloom all summer long and into the fall, and include plants known to support native butterfly larvae, such as willows, cherries, violets, and milkweeds. We are very fortunate to have diverse plantings on all sides of the Berry Center; now they are more diverse and colorful than ever! The Pollinator Gardens are located on the east side of the Berry Center, in the "canyon" between us and the Geology building.