Thursday, June 7, 2012 [updated Thursday, June 21, 2012]

Bastyr Unveils Seed Sanctuary and Native-Plant Trail Walk

The Sacred Seeds Ethnobotanical Trail is the only one of its kind on the West Coast and will serve as a nature preserve, education site and community resource center.

A view from a second story window of the Herb Garden and Sacred Seeds Trail
The herb garden and Sacred Seeds trail at Herb Fair 2012

Bastyr University’s 14th annual Herb and Food Fair on June 2 also marked the official grand opening for the Sacred Seeds Ethnobotanical Trail.

The mile-long trail provides an educational resource for the community to learn about seed saving and cultivation of native plants, and preserve ethnobotanical knowledge of how we have used them in the past for food, crops and ceremonies. The trail is the only one of its kind on the entire West Coast, with the next closet sanctuary located in Missouri.

“We are honored to have been selected as the Pacific Northwest representative of the Sacred Seeds Sanctuary,” says Sheila Kingsbury, ND, RH (AGH), chair of Bastyr’s Department of Botanical Medicine. “This is a great opportunity to preserve, teach and share what we know about native plants and why they have been, and continue to be, so important to our region.”

Signs identify native plants along the trail, which begins with a native plant meadow on the hillside behind the Bastyr Medicinal Herb Garden, then travels through a grove of 100-year-old Douglas firs next to the Student Village and into the woods where it winds around to a wetland area. While the project is still in the beginning stages, Dr. Kingsbury says she believes the seeds have been planted to grow into something great.

“I am so excited for this project to take shape, and I welcome the community’s input on ways to maximize the trail’s use,” she says.

The Roots of the Sacred Seeds Project

Although Sacred Seeds now has a global reach, the project started small at a native plant garden in Costa Rica with the same name, Santuario Semillas Sagradas. Local healers and others who wanted to learn more about native plants began to take an interest in the garden, and the project soon developed into an educational opportunity that worked both ways.

“The Sacred Seeds project uses the land to help tribal groups re-educate their communities about native healing,” says Dr. Kingsbury. “But native healers can also come to the gardens to use the seeds or learn to cultivate the plants, and also tell us what they need us to plant to help preserve it.”

The second sanctuary, Missouri Botanical Garden, followed shortly thereafter, and as the project continued to expand across the globe, Sacred Seeds co-founder Tom Newmark set his sights on Bastyr.

It didn’t take much to convince Dr. Kingsbury to jump on board, since Bastyr was already showcasing native plants in the medicinal herb garden as well as in the adjacent forest. With a $20,000 challenge grant from the Dean Witter Foundation, the project began to come to fruition.

How to Visit the Trail

The Sacred Seeds Ethnobotanical Trail is in the first phase of a three-year plan that will include efforts to phase out non-native plants under the guidance of Bastyr faculty member and ethnobotanist Heidi Bohan. Already the trail serves as a living “classroom” for visits from groups including:

  • Local American Indian tribes
  • K-12 faculty and students
  • Herbalists
  • Horticultural societies
  • Bicycle associations
  • Other colleges and university student populations
  • Garden clubs
  • All Bastyr University visiting neighbors and friends

Plans for a greenhouse in the final phase of the project could provide for even more educational opportunities.

“If we raise enough money to build a greenhouse on site, we’ll be able to more effectively teach the cultivation of plants both to students here on campus and to the community,” Dr. Kingsbury says.

To schedule a guided tour, visit our online registration page. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Assistant Garden Supervisor Michele Milligan, who helped design much of the Sacred Seeds Trail, at mmilligan[at]bastyr[dot]edu. Access to the trail is free and open to the public.

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