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Stanford Report, February 23, 2000

A guide to campus flowers -- month by blooming month


Soon, members of the Stanford community and visitors can take self-guided tours to see plants and trees in bloom throughout the campus -- and know what they're looking at.

Toward that end, a crew of grounds technicians has begun compiling a list of plants by the month they flower.

The representative list of flowering plants on campus will eventually be featured on a website. Just as maps of buildings are available online, "we hope to do that with plants," said Herb Fong, grounds manager.

Passersby can enjoy fragrant blooms of an almond tree on the grounds of Terman Engineering Center.

Photo by L.A. Cicero

Those in search of an aromatic experience this time of year can stand downwind of a flowering almond located on the east end of the Terman Engineering Center for a whiff of sweetness. You won't find that tree on the list -- yet. Nor the blooming expanse of daffodils in the courtyard of the Old Union. February is flush with opportunities for bloom sightings, since the list names at least a dozen plants.

This month, several varieties of magnolias are showing bold blooms of white and fuchsia at several campus sites such as the north end of the Mechanical Engineering Building and Escondido Mall.

The endeavor ties into the grounds department's integrated-pest management program. IPM principles revolve around planting the right plant in the right place to prevent disease, insect trouble, and watering and sunlight problems. And maintenance issues also surface. For example, a sheared bush in the garden area of the Serra complex makes for a dense form that keeps birds from flying in to feed on the thriving community of thrips -- those destructive insects that suck the juices from plants -- living inside. In most situations, there are many insects and diseases present, but they are not a problem until the tree or plant becomes weakened.

Karen Stidd heads a grounds staff team that includes Carol Sweetapple and Andy Butcher, which is carrying out the study of flowering plants and a "coincident bloom" project that will take note, for example, of what else happens in the environment when an azalea blooms. The information can be passed on to local gardeners so they can determine planting schedules and other variables. "We're just starting to keep records," Butcher said.

The work-in-progress list of flowering plants will be handy when the staff leads plant tours during events such as Alumni Homecoming Weekend, when groups of about 50 persons sign on for tours to hike the grounds. "A lot of them have questions about the history of the plants," Butcher said. SR