Earlier this fall, a group of Black Hills State University students planted a variety of native species in the ethnobotanical garden which is located on the west side of the University's Life Sciences Laboratory.
Black Hills State University recently celebrated the grand opening of its native plant ethnobotanical garden, one of several events held during the University’s Outdoor Week.

The ethnobotanical garden, located on the west side of the Life Sciences Laboratory, was merely an idea a little over a year ago, and is now home to a variety of native species including buffalo grass, yucca, prickly pear, blue stem grass, evergreen, pine trees, sage, and purple coneflower.

“Everything that is in this garden was collected in the Hills and are native to the Hills,” said Dr. Dan Asunskis, assistant professor of chemistry, noting all plants were collected by Dr. Ben Van Ee, assistant professor of biology, and his students. The garden is in the shape of a Native American medicine wheel, an idea which came from a BHSU graduate.

The ethnobotanical garden is used on campus for many learning purposes such as science and American Indian studies classes offered at BHSU. The plants are also used for a variety of purposes including medicinal. “As the plants grow we will be able to use them for all kinds of purposes,” Asunskis said. “We have some that will be used for teas and others that will be used for medicines and numbing purposes.”

The garden recently placed signs by all of the plants that include their scientific and native names, Asunskis said.

The only care required for the garden is weeding. The garden is all natural so there is no weed killer or chemicals used, and no need to water because the plants are all native to South Dakota, said Asunskis.

“We explained what the garden is about, and the educational references of these native plants that are in the garden,” John Hinrichs, graduate student in the master of science in sustainability program, said of the grand opening. “This was an opportunity for people to learn more about what this area was like before it was a campus.”

Hinrichs, along with Van Ee and other students, also talked about sustainability and the ethnobotanical garden.

“We talked about different types of sustainability here on campus, the garden being one of those,” Hinrichs said.