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Have you heard of the University of Washington’s Medicinal Herb Garden?

Although it has been around since 1911, it remains a little-known feature of the University of Washington campus.

The entrance to the main section is tucked away north of West Stevens Way, between Benson Hall and the Chemistry Building. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see two columns topped by statues of scary-looking monkeys.

Talk about a unique P-Patch. The Medicinal Herb Garden is said to have extended for as much as 8 acres all the way to Meany Hall back when it was set up by the School of Pharmacy for research. These days it covers about 2.5 acres, divided in seven segments, where you will find more than 800 species of plants carefully labeled with their scientific and common names.


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Such a great herbal collection is the result of a seed-exchange program with more than 300 botanical gardens around the world, explained Keith Possee, who has been taking care of the garden for more than 20 years. The specimens include such plants as Catharanthus roseus, Madagascar periwinkle, which produces a compound used to treat cancer, and Artemisia annua, commonly known as sweet Annie,  is used as a treatment for malaria.

I seem to have timed my visit well. June, July and August are the best months to explore the garden, when the plants are green and flowering, said Possee.

If you visit, you may find Possee pulling weeds, collecting seeds, taking photos for the garden’s blog or shooing away those cute but annoying Eastern cottontail rabbits that come to dine on this extraordinary exhibit.

Although the garden is hard to find, you won’t have trouble recognizing Possee by the hand pruner on his belt and a wide-brimmed hat.