Revitalization adds beauty and utility to garden

Butler University officials are hoping to spread some beauty around campus with the revitalization of the apothecary garden.

An apothecary garden features plants and herbs that are used in pharmaceutical drugs.

“The garden brings an awareness to people,” Phil Villani, a biology professor, said. “People don’t realize that medicines come from plants.”

Located along the walkway between the Pharmacy Building and Robertson Hall, the apothecary garden was established by Waqar Bhatti, a longtime College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences professor who died last year.

Yesterday a revitalization project reception was held, which included a talk about medicinal plants, a choral performance by the Butler Chorale and a discussion on the art installation.

There are two separate sections of the garden that house different plants sparked by where they come from and what they do. The traditional Chinese medicine garden presents peonies, which can be used in a “four thing soup” that was a sort of tonic in Chinese medicine for women.

Garlic is also found in this garden.

If garlic is crushed or cooked, it produces a sulfur-containing compound that is biologically active and has some therapeutic values, Kim Beck, an adjunct medicinal chemistry professor, said.

Dianthus, also in the garden, can be used to treat illnesses of the kidney and urinary tract.

“Most of the plants here are medicinal, but some are here to beautify the area,” Beck said.

For example, the beautyberry produces a vibrant purple berry that Beck describes as “remarkable.”

The other garden is the Native American and Western European medicinal herb garden.

The Madagascar periwinkle in this garden is known to have anti-cancer agents in it, and it is modified into a pharmaceutical drug.

While some plants may be marketed as  pharmaceutical drugs, others are simply there because they have a history of being medicinal plants. For example, the common bearberry isn’t marketed, but it can be used as a diuretic to treat urinary infections.

The garden holds historical value because it showcases where medicines come from.

“Nature can design amazingly complex structures with therapeutic action,” Beck said. “It’s a pretty amazing designer.”

The apothecary garden on Butler’s campus is supposed to be a living lab where the plants can be used for study purposes in biology and pharmacy.

Becky Dolan, the director of the herbarium, said the garden presents informal science education because it is in a high traffic area.

This spring, the garden has been revitalized as part of the Earth Project. Students, faculty and staff got together one Saturday to plant everything.

Beck that the groundskeepers have been extremely helpful and really friendly when it has come to this project.

“I hope to get a student organization created to maintain the area,” Beck said.