Oliphant hosts diverse native plants

The courtyard in Oliphant hall houses a selection of native plants for the use and enjoyment of TU faculty. Currently, biology professor Glen Collier cares for the courtyard, but his upcoming retirement in May makes its future unclear.

In 1974, Pat Blair, professor of biology, used the intersession course to find plants to populate the Oliphant courtyard. He, along with 13 students, collected native plants to transplant into the courtyard. Some of these plants still grow in the garden today, including the devil’s walking stick and the soapberry tree.

Blair later noted that not all of the plants should have been included in the garden. Collier said the soapberry tree was a good example of that, as it has grown quite large in comparison to its space.

After Blair retired, Collier took over care of the space. Under his care, the courtyard gained a water feature and labels for most of the plants. Matt Reed, a TU alumnus, donated his time and expertise in crafting the water feature.

“It’s a balancing act to get the water flow just right,” Collier said. When correctly done, the courtyard has a waterfall that flows into pools. Having the water feature allows for some aquatic plants, such as lizards tail, but Collier also wanted it because of his interest in fish.

Weeds, especially black snakeroot, have presented the most problems over the years. “It’s a nice resource, but it takes someone to be dedicated to it,” Collier said. Otherwise weeds quickly take over.

The nature of the courtyard presents another part of the issue. The space is “not totally wild, but it’s not a garden,” according to Collier. Blair, a naturalist, wanted to “bring into town a representative selection of native Oklahoma plants.” This style takes a lot of attention, which the space has not always received.

While Collier has been in charge of the courtyard for several years, others have assisted him in caring for it. Over the years, work study students have helped with the space, but their effort has fluctuated. As he will officially retire in May, he hasn’t been as involved in the garden recently.

Those with a strong interest in volunteering their time to care for the garden should contact Estelle Levetin, chair of biology, for more information, in Oliphant Hall 328 or at estelle-levetin@utulsa.edu.

Post Author: tucollegian

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