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Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Plant Collections records

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-4.2.1

Scope and Contents

The collection includes the annual reports of the Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Plant Collections. These reports contain general information such as plans to expand the Beal Botanical Garden in the late 1920s, Dutch Elm Disease, new plantings, and the seed exchange and labeling programs. The 1968 report contains a map and brochure of the Botanical Gardens. The 1971 report contains a rare plant list.

Included is the film "MSU Panorama" (circa 1970s), with footage beginning at the Beal Botanical Garden. Interviews take place along the Red Cedar river, and in front of the MSU Library. The actual creator is unknown.

Also included are aerial photographs mostly of the main MSU campus and MSU-owned properties that were transferred from the Beal Botanical Garden. The invoices for the aerial photography photos were kept because they provide the estimated square miles of the land and major roads that were photographed. A flight path index is listed for a few corresponding years.


  • Creation: 1926 - 2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1961 - 1996


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Historical Note

The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden was established by Professor William James Beal, and is the oldest collegiate continuously operated botanical garden in the United States. The garden began in 1873 with just a small collection of 140 species of forage grasses and clovers. As years passed, Beal kept adding seeds and plants that were native to the region that could survive the Michigan climate. By 1882, the garden occupied about one-third of an acre and contained several hundreds of native plants. By the time Beal retired from M.A.C. in 1910, the garden was around 2.1 acres and had over 2,100 species of plants.

Today, the garden is around 6 acres and contains over 5,000 species. As it was in the beginning, the garden is still an outdoor laboratory used by students and the public is welcome to enjoy the beautiful setting. Everything in the garden is labeled with the plants common name, scientific name, place of origin of the plant, and maybe additional background information. It is broken up into four main collections: Plant Families, Useful Plants, Forest Communities, and Landscape Plants.

The garden since its founding has had many names over the years. It was first known as the “Wild Garden.” Beal later referred it as the Botanical Garden. It is unknown when the garden acquired this name, but for more than half a century, the garden was called the Beal-Garfield Botanical Garden. The other person in the title refers to Charles W. Garfield. Garfield graduated from M.A.C. in 1870 and he served as garden supervisor when Beal began to plant along the Red Cedar River ravine. During the 1970s is when the name was changed to what it is today, the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden.

Along with the Beal Botanical Garden, there are several other gardens, arboretums, and nurseries on campus and the Hidden Lake Gardens located in Tipton, Michigan.


2 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Plant Collections Records
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US