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Green islands around the University buildings to entice threatened insects

The number of insect species is plummeting, which is why the University is creating a more biodiverse environment around its buildings. Annetje Ottow, President of the Executive Board, planted the first bee-friendly plants in the front garden of Oude UB on 20 September.

‘It’s going to be a mini-hortus!’ said Annetje Ottow as she planted a wild geranium in the front garden of Oude UB on Rapenburg. Insects like leafcutter bees will be pleased because they love these plants. Ottow’s geraniums mark the symbolic start of more green and biodiversity around the University buildings.

Grass and trees not enough

Until now, the front garden of Administration and Central Services on Rapenburg consisted of tiles, grass and a few trees. Quite green you might be tempted to say, but for many insects, grass and trees alone are not enough. They need different nectar plants to thrive. Ottow: ‘The number of species is decreasing dramatically. As a university we want to do our bit to help, and we also want to set a good example. The new biodiverse garden also showcases our knowledge in the area of sustainability and biodiversity.’

Head of greenhouses Rogier van Vugt passes the wild geraniums to Annetje Ottow. Next to her is Jens Opdam from Leiden University Green Office.

The garden makeover is the result of the ‘Stenen eruit, Groen erin’ (Stones out, Green in) project, which Leiden University Green Office (LUGO), Hortus botanicus Leiden and the University Services and Real Estate Departments are working on.

‘The green islands will be a corridor for the bees’

Alluring plants

Rogier van Vugt, head of greenhouses at the Hortus botanicus, is also present at this symbolic moment on 20 September. He has advised about the new garden landscaping, and has chosen new plants that will appeal to the bee species that live two hundred metres away, in the Hortus. ‘We’ve specifically chosen plants that are associated with certain solitary bees that are having a difficult time at the moment. We’re also going to plant Campanula, which attracts scissor bees, and tansy, which attracts plasterer bees. So we’re going to create green islands – a kind of corridor in the city – that bees can fly to.’

More green buildings

As well as at Oude UB, new green zones will be created at Gravensteen (Student and Educational Affairs) and Kamerlingh Onnes (Law) to attract more insects. And there’s plenty of attention to diverse vegetation at the Leiden Bio Science Park. Ottow: ‘We’re facing a huge biodiversity crisis. That’s what makes these kinds of green initiatives so important. Every little bit helps.’

Text: Linda van Putten
Photos: Marc de Haan

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