A guide to MU’s spring foliage popping up on campus

The campus comes back to life.

Classroom walks seem more enjoyable with the landscape changing from dead plants and barren trees to colorful buds and flowers – after all, MU is a registered botanical garden! This guide will help you identify common foliage around campus.

lily magnolia tree

You’ve probably spotted these eye-catching trees in front of Jesse Hall. They are easily identified by their bright pink flowers, which start blooming in April. The flowers are a common source of pollen for beetles and other pollinators. Lily magnolias are native to Asia.

Fun fact: The “Little Girl” series of magnolias, a hybrid group of magnolias developed in the 1950s, all have traditional girl names like Betty, Susan, and Ann.

Lily magnolias bloom April 20, 2022 at Francis Quadrangle in Columbia, Missouri. Pollinated by beetles, they thrive in full sun or partial shade. | Photo by Ever Cole

purple deadnettle

Yes, it’s technically a weed, but it’s oddly charming at the same time. You’ve probably spotted this plant in untreated grassy areas all over campus. An arrangement of green leaves and tiny purple flowers crown the long stems. The purple nettle is native to Europe and Asia. The plant is also edible; try it in a stir-fry or tea.

Fun fact: Crimson Deadnettle is commonly used by pickers to remedy skin irritations.

The purple deadnettle grows near Southwest Village on April 21, 2022 in Columbia, Missouri. It is often identified by its hairy leaves and square stem. | Photo by Ever Cole


You will see these pretty flowers while walking between Jesse Hall and the Columns or in front of Memorial Union. Pansies come in different colors like dark purple, yellow, white, pink, and even multicolored. It is a hybrid wildflower derived from the genus Viola, native to Europe and Asia. Pansies are also edible and commonly used in salads!

Fun fact: In the 1951 film “Alice in Wonderland”, many of the flowers Alice encounters are pansies.

Flower 2
Pansies grow April 20, 2022 near the Francis Quadrangle in Columbia, Missouri. They are found worldwide but thrive in temperate climates. | Photo by Ever Cole

japanese kerria

While the radioactively contaminated Pickard Hall is undoubtedly spooky, the flora surrounding it certainly is not. One of them is the Japanese kerria. The pretty yellow flowers are also planted around Hulston Hall and the Geological Sciences building. The shrub is native to Japan, China and Korea.

Fun fact: Chinese medicinal practices use honey extracted from the flowers to treat coughs.

The Japanese kerria grows April 20, 2022 at Pickard Hall. They are 1 to 3 meters high with weak stems that rest on other vegetation or rocks. | Photo by Ever Cole

eastern redbud

This charming tree displays clusters of pink rose flowers, hence its name. Due to the shape of the flowers, long-tongued bees are common pollinators because short-tongued ones cannot reach nectar. The buds turn into heart-shaped leaves during the summer. The redbud is native to North America.

Fun Fact: Eastern Redbud is a member of the legume family, which makes it closely related to peas.

An oriental redbud grows near Jesse Hall on April 20, 2022 in Columbia, Mo. In the south, they are often characterized by smaller, glossier leaves. | Photo by Ever Cole


You can spot hostas all over campus, especially in the garden outside the entrance to the Potential Energy Café. These shade-loving plants come in a variety of leaf colors and sizes – bright lime green to dark blue-green, with narrow to heart-shaped leaves. They grow long stems with brightly colored flowers during the summer months. The flowers are fragrant and attract many different pollinators.

Fun fact: deer are known to love hostas. However, I am skeptical that MU has many deer residents on campus.

Hostas grow outside the Potential Energy Café on April 21, 2022 in Columbia, Missouri. Known to thrive in shade, they come in many shapes and sizes. | Photo by Ever Cole

pine oaks

You’ve probably enjoyed the shade of one of the many oak trees that line the Quad or seen a squirrel scurrying up a tree trunk with an acorn in its mouth. Pine oaks are native to Missouri and have shaded our campus for decades.

Fun fact: MU will eventually remove these trees due to issues with their location conflicting with irrigation systems. White oaks from Forrest Keeling Nursery, named Legacy Oaks, will be planted in their place. The nursery has donated 70 white oak trees to MU to provide shade for students for years to come!

Pine Oak
Pin Oaks reside in the Francis Quadrangle on April 21 in Columbia, Missouri. They often form a symmetrical shape which makes them popular as ornamental trees. | Photo by Ever Cole

Edited by Abby Stetina | [email protected]
Edited by Cara Penquite | [email protected]

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