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 to learn more about floral diversity at the Berry Center.
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 Biodiversity Institute's Gardens at the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center
The Berry Centers Green Roof: "The Berry Prairie"
Rather than a 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!
Purpose of the Green Roof:
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.
Follow the progress of the green roof by reading our blog. We're blogging about what is in bloom, what's doing well and what's struggling, sightings of pollinators and matrix-level species like spiders and beetles, educational programs relating to the green roof, and more. The blog, entitled "The Berry Prairie: Native Biodiversity in a Rooftop Landscape" can be found at here - don't forget to bookmark the page so you can easily find it next time!
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.
Penstemon is the largest genus of wildflowers with all species native to North America. Wyoming has about 40 species that can found in the driest deserts, the subalpine, and nearly everywhere in between. Often called beardtongues, penstemons are popular garden plants because they thrive with little water, come in a wide range of colors and forms, and attract native bees and hummingbirds.
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. To read Joseph's guide to growing Penstemons, click here.
Stop by the garden any time — it's located in the alley courtyard just west of the Berry Center, and open to the public. There are flowers from May to frost, but the garden is most spectacular in June—definitely worth a visit!
Paintbrushes (Castilleja species) are both beautiful and misunderstood. Their green leaves suggest they live an honest plant lifestyle, making food from CO2 and sunlight, absorbing water and nutrients through their roots. But it's not true! Paintbrushes connect their roots to those of another plant, called the host, and steal nutrients and water, and perhaps even carbohydrates. Sagebrush is a common host; it has a well-developed root system and is very efficient at gathering water and nutrients from poor, dry soils. By taking from the host, paintbrushes save energy for flower and seed production. Plants like paintbrushes, that photosynthesize and steal, are called hemi-parasites, meaning half-parasite.
Many gardeners would like to grow Indian paintbrush, but because of the difficulty of establishing the host along with the paintbrush, 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 since, 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
What a difference a year makes!
In 2014 the garden took off. These photos show (from left to right) Castilleja integra, C. sessiliflora, and the Penstemon and Artemisia hosts. Unfortunately, the seedlings of C. angustifolia and C. chromosa didn't come back in the spring.
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 fortunates 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.