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Morton La Kretz gives $1 million to Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA

By Stuart Wolpert
Originally posted in UCLA Newsroom

Created in 1929, the botanical garden today is home to thousands of species of plants, including many that cannot be found anywhere else in California. Among its offerings are notable collections of tropical and subtropical trees, Australian plants, conifers and Hawaiian species, as well as salamanders, turtles, lizards and koi.

Located on the Westwood campus, the garden serves an important role for the university, both for conservation and as an outdoor laboratory for courses in botany, ecology, evolution and biogeography.

The funds donated by La Kretz will be used to develop a new entrance to the botanical garden, the first step in a series of renovations to increase the garden's visibility, upgrade its infrastructure and improve its accessibility for the disabled.

"This is a hidden gem on the UCLA campus," La Kretz said. "I'm delighted to be able to lend my support to such an important UCLA asset."

"We are so grateful for generous supporters like Morton La Kretz," said Victoria Sork, dean of the UCLA Division of Life Sciences. "He shares our vision and commitment to developing the beautiful garden's full potential to serve the campus and community. The garden is a cherished part of our campus but has been desperately in need of improved infrastructure and maintenance for its continued role in education and outreach."

"The garden is really special," said its director, Philip Rundel, a UCLA distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who holds a joint appointment at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. "When I give tours, everybody is amazed by the beauty of the garden, particularly if they are seeing it for the first time. They can't believe they are in West L.A. The garden serves as an oasis of tranquility and is open to visitors at no charge."

Sork and Rundel envision many new possibilities for the garden with private support, including cultural and artistic events, a new "welcome center" with exhibits and two classrooms, a large medicinal herb garden, a wheelchair-accessible tree-canopy walkway, and perhaps weddings and receptions.

La Kretz remembers, as a UCLA undergraduate, gathering "swampy" water from the garden for a biology class experiment. Years later, he traveled to Costa Rica on a popular field-study tour led by renowned scientist and horticulturist Mildred Mathias, for whom the garden is named and who served as its director from 1956 to 1974.

The botanical garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter, and until 5 p.m. at other times of the year. It is closed on university holidays.

For information about supporting the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, please contact Siana-Lea Gildard at 310-206-0666 or slgildard@support.ucla.edu.

The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is a living museum, housing special collections designed to assist the undergraduate teaching mission at UCLA and to augment the capability for research on campus. The garden serves as a long-term repository for unusual plants, a refugium for biodiversity. This facility offers its educational content to the campus community, residents of Los Angeles and visitors from around the world to enhance learning about plants and promote greater appreciation of the relevance of plants to society.