About the Garden
The UGA Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden

Managed by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI) since it’s opening in October of 1998, the Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden (LAEG) is a unique green space behind Baldwin Hall on UGA’s north campus. The Garden was started as an interdisciplinary initiative developed by emeritus professors Brent and Elois Ann Berlin—co-directors of the Anthropology Department’s Laboratories of Ethnobiology—their graduate students, and the UGA Physical Plant. Construction for the Garden and its continued maintenance is made possible by longstanding support provided by the Exposition Foundation, the Murphy Foundation, the Physical Plant, and donors like Iwee Paterson, a Smyrna, GA resident who donated the LAEG greenhouse, and the Buckhead Men’s Garden Club, that provided funds to move and assemble the greenhouse.

Most of the construction of the Ethnobotanical Garden made use of recycled construction materials.

The LAEG was constructed to research the horticultural requirements of medicinal plants used by the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Maya of highland Chiapas, Mexico, and to focus attention on the need for the conservation of plant biodiversity and traditional plant knowledge. It has expanded to include some 150 culturally important plants found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and serves as a space for research, instruction and community outreach. The LAEG also maintains a small collection of Georgia native trees and shrubs of ethnobotanical importance to the native peoples of the Southeastern United States Piedmont region.

The Garden emphasizes the field of ethnobotany—the study of the relationship that exists between people and plants—through a variety of related disciplines such as anthropology, botany, conservation biology, ecology, geography, horticulture, and pharmacology. To date, faculty from the departments of Anthropology Landscape Design, Ecology, and Horticulture have integrated the LAEG into undergraduate course curricula. An advisory board of faculty meets each semester to discuss continued LAEG development and includes representatives from the Physical Plant, LACSI, Anthropology, Horticulture and Geography.

In addition to serving as a living laboratory for UGA faculty and student use, LACSI also encourages use of the Garden for educational outreach among Athens-area public schools and the general public. LACSI has worked with several local elementary schools to help them develop their own small ethnobotanical gardens and has organized a number of garden workshops for K-12 teachers, in collaboration with the State Botanical Garden. Such gardens provide students with numerous participatory learning opportunities in the social and life sciences and give teachers an excellent instructional resource for meeting Georgia Performance Standards related to these areas of study. The LAEG routinely receives visits from area schools, international delegations, and community organizations such as Athens Master Gardeners. Many university and community groups also made use of the space to hold concerts, receptions and meetings. Contact LACSI assistant director Paul Duncan (pduncan@uga.edu) if your unit or organization is interested in touring the LAEG, using the space for an event, or if you wish to volunteer to assist in maintaining this space.

The LAEG is a member of the Ethnobotanical Sister Garden Network, a group of private, public and community-sponsored gardens in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. These gardens promote environmental education, preservation of indigenous plant knowledge, and community development while offering new academic exchange opportunities for UGA faculty and students. The LAEG is also a registered participant of the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation, sponsored by Botanic Gardens Conservation International.