Chancellor's Friday Letters

Treasure Trove in the Gardens

Treasure Trove in the Gardens

September 30, 2011

Dear Friends,

One line from UCR’s alma mater has been playing over and over in my head ever since convocation: “Jewel of old UC”.

Clearly part of the reason is because of the beautiful voice of our student L├ęCourtenay Long as she sang Hail Fair UCR.

But one of the most amazing and unexpected jewels that I discovered after I arrived at UCR in 2008 was just behind the Chancellor’s residence – that jewel of nature, that tie to our agricultural origins, the UCR Botanic Gardens.

The 40-acre home to 3,500 plants from around the world and myriad wild animals, including nearly 200 bird species, has provided my family with untold hours of delight and relaxation. We have wandered its four miles of trails from one amazing jewel of nature to another, or just been absorbed by introspection and solace away from the other matters of our multidimensional lives.

The garden, cared for and watched over by a phalanx of volunteers and staff, offers any member of the campus or the public a venue for personal meditation or public gathering. It enfolds us in tears and contemplation… For generations it has been bringing the exuberance of miraculous and eternal nature to our memorial services and weddings.

Originally, the garden was created as an outdoor classroom for courses at UCR and local schools. A living textbook for botanists and ecologists, for entomologists and anthropologists, to this day it provides a lab for landscapers and ornamental horticulturalists, a model for artists and photographers. Researchers locate their projects there, and test and exhibit plant species introduced from all parts of the world.

Its location at the foot of the Box Springs Mountains in Riverside’s subtropical climate provides microclimates that encourage a rich diversity of plant life. Not only can aficionados of desert life find hundreds of spectacular cacti, ocotillos, agaves and yuccas, rosarians find more than 300 species of roses, heritage varieties, miniatures, floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas, including award winners. The kitchen gardener can find an innumerable variety of herbs, even extending to those used for medicinal purposes or as textile dyes.

The seasons each bring new gems for our delight: more than 150, multicolored types of iris, lilacs and subtropical fruits and nuts… Specialty areas display natives of the Southwest, of the Sierras and even South African wildflowers and Australian native species… The garden also sports an array of rare and unusual plants such as the elephant tree and slipper plant, the lanky ocotillo, that found its name in a Lewis Carroll poem The Hunting of the Snark, and a Philippine black plum tree called the lomboy.

Perhaps we’ll cross paths one day in the gardens, as we gaze into the depths of one of the ponds, commune with the turtles and koi that inhabit them, or marvel at the irises and cattails that flourish along their banks.

This jewel awaits you. You won’t be disappointed.

With warm regards,


Tim White, Chancellor

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The Eyes Have It
Psychology Professor Larry Rosenblum demonstrates that our eyes can fool us. “Watch” this video with your eyes open and again with them closed…fascinating and sobering to experience the McGurk effect.

UCR’s Prison
Engage a rare tour of the UCR Insectary and Quarantine Facility and meet researchers Mark and Christina Hoddle. This LA Times treatment of our husband and wife team is fascinating, as they travel the world to find enemies for invasive pests that migrate here and become a problem for our food supply.

Graham’s Story
A UCR alumnus created a documentary about his search for help for his son’s neurological disorder. UCR’s family autism resource center, SEARCH, is offering a free screening of an award-winning documentary, “Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story,” 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, 3834 Main St., in downtown Riverside.

Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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