2023 - Fragrance Garden

The Sweet Sweet Smell of Health

To educate the campus and community about new research showing the human health benefits of plants, a fragrance garden will be developed on campus. With the goals of supporting both human and environmental resilience and supporting campus students, faculty, staff and visitors during stressful times, the Campus Arboretum will enhance the diversity of the existing landscape with desert adapted plants known to release fragrant compounds that improve physiological and psychological functions.
Recent research (Nabhan et al, 2022), has identified more than 100 oils released from desert plants. These oils are released into the air when it rains, producing a complex and soothing fragrance desert dwellers love. As it turns out, many of the oils produced by desert plants are similar to those known by forest bathers to reduce stress and create a relaxed state for humans. "Forest Bathing" is a practice common in Japan wherein practictioners seek out forested areas for respite and well being. The symphony of smells released by desert plants may account for our delight given their likely influence in lowering stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate while also helping us to sleep better. 
Students spent much of 2023, researching  desert-adapted species known for producing fragrant blooms or vegetation, and created educational content featuring the plants' botanical, natural historical, medicinal, and cultivation requirements. The recent publication by Nabhan and all formed the basis for the majority of the species selected, while others have not been empirically documented for their volatile emissions but are commmonly known to produce pleasant aromas. The plants selected were chosen for their fragrant foliage and fragrant flowers that will provide year-round beauty and fragrance. Many are also known for their medicinal value. Contractors will install 65 new plants representing 30 species (9 of which are new introductions to the campus collection) and signage created by students linking to web content using QR codes will be installed in August 2023. After Summer 2023, visitors will be able to visit the site, engage with the educational content and experience the healing benefits of plant fragrance. 

Given the location near student housing and the campus health center, as well as the popularity of this shady site for campus walks, we hope these "feel good" fragrant plants will have positive impact for those seeking resilience. Here, we invite the campus and community to experience the documented benefits of urban nature on human health and well-being.
To read the full project description and understand the context, see the proposal as a pdf below. To support this project or others like it which integrate education and public health into urban spaces, vist the Campus Arboretum giving page. https://arboretum.arizona.edu/gifts-become-friend-arboretum
See Nabhan et al. 2022 at: *https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/6/3250
June, 2023