The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a unit of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We further the University's mission of teaching, research, and public service through our own mission:
"To inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature."
The history of the North Carolina Botanical Garden is a history of the people and botanical legacy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 1903, William Chambers Coker, the University's first professor of botany, began planting a teaching collection of trees and shrubs on the central campus. This collection was to become the Coker Arboretum. Starting in the late 1920s, Coker and his student Henry Roland Totten, proposed a more complete botanical garden south of the main campus. Although some plantings were made by the 1940s, it was in 1952 that the Trustees dedicated 70 forested acres for botanical garden development. To this tract were added 103 acres of dramatic creek gorge and rhododendron bluffs, donated by William Lanier Hunt, a horticulturist and former student of Coker and Totten.
Hunt also helped to found the Garden's membership support organization, the Botanical Garden Foundation, in 1966. In 1961, Dr. C. Ritchie Bell was appointed the Garden's first director. The Garden's first public offering-its Nature Trails-opened on Arbor Day in April 1966. Its first state appropriation was acquired five years later in 1971, when the first employee, J. Kenneth Moore was hired.
Director C. Ritchie Bell, a professor of botany and tireless promoter of the flora of North Carolina, had enlisted the support of the Botanical Garden Foundation and the Garden Club of North Carolina to publish a book of photos with William S. Justice. Wild Flowers of North Carolina (UNC Press 1968) filled a need among wildflower lovers and students of natural history, and it brought valuable attention to the fledgling North Carolina Botanical Garden. Dr. Bell also enlisted many students to help at the Garden even before he hired its first employee.