Whiteside Garden in need of volunteer work

Lynnsey Veach, Staff Reporter

The Whiteside Garden is in need of volunteers from the Eastern community during their efforts to move the location to Eastern’s campus.

The Whiteside Garden was started 50 years ago by Dr. Wesley Whiteside, a former Eastern botany professor.

Dakota Radford, the volunteer coordinator at the Whiteside Garden said, “The late Dr. Wesley Whiteside chose to leave his garden legacy to the university so that it may become a resource of education and enjoyment to researchers, students, and the community.”

The garden covers five acres and contains over 1,000 species and a variety of plants, rivaling many urban botanical gardens, Radford said.

The Whiteside Garden is a private property that is currently closed to the public, but it is in the process of moving to Eastern’s campus in the near future.

Radford said the garden is in need of volunteers and help during this time of transition, so it can remain healthy and protect the great diversity of the unique plants.

“During volunteer events, we typically weed, move brush, remove dead flower stalks, and do a wide variety of other seasonal projects,” Radford said. “For example, on November 14th, 25 EIU students assisted with our annual volunteer-favorite: cutting down the banana trees.”

The garden continually gains more endangered and rare plants, and Radford said assistance from the community helps maintain and keep the diversity “alive.”

The Whiteside Garden started offering monthly volunteer opportunities in 2013, and has had over 230 volunteers since, Radford said.

Sophomore biology major Angie Herrera said she volunteered at the Whiteside Garden with her class for an extra credit opportunity.

“I do recommend others to volunteer at the garden,” Herrera said. “It’s a really relaxing place, and I suggest people to go to meet others and to help.”

Radford said many of the volunteers who have an interest in plants also come to learn more about the endangered species and to enjoy viewing the garden.

“Even before the volunteer events began though, EIU students have been supporting the garden through graduate student assistantships and botany classes,” Radford said.

The five-acre garden has had Eastern students and staff volunteer in the monthly opportunities for over 2-and-a-half years, and Radford said their work at the garden is greatly valued.

Herrera said she hopes to see more students helping out at the garden, because with more hands available then more will be accomplished.

Once the transformation to Eastern’s campus in complete, Radford said the Whiteside Garden will be a “botanical treasure” to Eastern and the Charleston community.

On every third Saturday of the month, Eastern students and the community can volunteer at the garden. Volunteer opportunities are open to anyone; no experience with working with gardens in required.

“Some EIU students remember gardening at home and miss getting their hands into the soil,” Radford said. “Other volunteers have never gardened before and are looking to try something new.”

Radford said she encourages Eastern students to help out with the garden since this is a crucial time during their transition to Eastern’s campus.

“What is really so special about this experience is that volunteers have a direct impact on the future of the garden at EIU,” Radford said. “It’s something to look back on years from now and be proud you were a part of.”


Lynnsey Veach can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]