Missouri Botanical Garden Adds 6.5-Acre Nursery in Tower Grove South

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The Missouri Botanical Garden is set to expand its holdings in a big way. The garden has received a donation of nearly 6.5-acres of land just south of Tower Grove Park and near the existing garden. The gift, from longtime Garden supporters the Oertli family, will alleviate space constraints within MOBOT’s existing footprint, providing greenhouse space to maintain permanent collections and conduct research and propagation.

According to MOBOT, the new facility will eventually allow the Garden to produce at least 95 percent of the plant material for its annual displays, most of which currently must be purchased. The facility is not planned to be open to the public, but tours are planned. Construction of the Oertli Family Hardy Plan Nursery is scheduled to being soon, and the facility should be growing plants by the end of this year.

According to a press release, the Oertli family has sold a portion of the 16-acre complex at 3400 Morganford to the employee-owners of Guarantee Electrical Company, which it has owned since the 1940s. The remainder of the site will become the MOBOT nursery, with an address at 3405 Bent Avenue. “We believe this is a true win for everyone involved, including the largely residential Tower Grove South neighborhood,” said Rick and Roger Oertli, co-managing members of the family LLC that controls the property, in a released statement.


In addition to its properties near the botanical garden, MOBOT owns Shaw Nature Reserve, 2,441 acres on the Meramec at Highway 100 and Interstate 44. Land to establish the nature preserve was purchased in 1925 and was originally set up as something of a refuge for the Garden’s plant collection from the city’s smoke pollution of the 1920’s. Today it is open to the public for hiking and is used for education and research.

More from the MOBOT press release:

Plants grown in the new facility will be hardy herbaceous as well as woody perennials, with a focus on wild-collected specimens. Growing taxa of wild origin serves as a tool for both conservation and education purposes and allows the Garden to conserve important genetics and support wild populations through ex-situ conservation while providing an incomparable learning opportunity for horticulturists.

“This is an important step in our mission to conserve some of the world’s rarest and most endangered plant species while supporting the Garden’s displays and permanent collections in a more sustainable way,” said Andrew Wyatt, Vice President of Horticulture and Living Collections. “Horticulture is more than a love of gardening. It’s a science that includes understanding propagation and cultivation. This new nursery greatly strengthens the Garden’s capacity for this important work.”

MOBOT holdings_2{MOBOT holdings shown in blue}

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  • kjohnson04

    I’d rather the Botanical Garden actually do something with fallow land, and this is worthwhile to boot, something my alma mater SLU hasn’t learned yet. Holding ‘land banks’ holds everybody back (not to mention the city tax rolls).

  • disqus_RZdf6Pakat

    we can quibble about what or how they do things but in the end the garden is a genuine treasure they won’t be a bad neighbor and if it helps their mission… nice of the Oertli family.

  • John R

    While on the whole I like the project, I’d like to know more about how many jobs this is expected to create…. seems like there could be the potential for a fair number.

    On the other hand, if it’s just a few that is kind of disappointing for an area that holds good promise for future redevelopment. And the thought of even more of the city’s limited acreage being placed off the property tax rolls isn’t exactly a great one. (okay, grumbling over.)

    • Don

      Always concerned with taking developable property off the tax rolls, but this ground will be put to good use. Very different from Universities and Churches buying up surround property and then letting it sit fallow. Makes me crazy.

    • More than half the land in the city is owned by the city government in one form or another. The holdings of organizations like SLU are a drop in the bucket compared to that.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Are you talking about city parks, streets, schools, libraries, public works, etc.? Last estimate on vacant property was ~20%, with maybe half city-owned. It would be interesting to see what percentage of all property is taxable in cities similar to St. Louis.

        • John R

          Right; land-challenged cities like ours and Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, etc. surely will have a higher than average percentage of non-taxable property compared to larger cities and the challenge is to get the most productivity out of taxable properties.

          I agree with Jason that this particular parcel is small pickings, but when you add all the land that is not taxed because of ownership by non-profits, etc, it has a major impact on our city finances and schools. It’s something to be aware of and to address. I’d love to see a vigorous effort here to implement a payments-in-lieu-of-taxes like what Mayor Peduto is working on in Pittsburgh.