Utrecht Science Park: a green oasis? That's right!
It starts with the adopt-a-plant(s) in your student room or office, and ends in all the places where you would not expect this 'concrete jungle' to turn green; and there are more than you would think! The Green Signpost was designed to make you, as a student or employee, aware of all the nature that the campus has to offer you. It challenges you to explore the campus more frequently during your breaks from a long day of work or studying.
The signpost, which you will find on the square next to the Utrecht University Library, points to the following green spaces:
At about 100 meters from the main entrance of the Botanical Gardens you will find the Ring Snake Forest - Environmental Monitor: an 'open-air laboratory' of seven hectares where nature is largely left to its own devices. At first glance this area may not seem very exciting, but there is a lot for the curious wanderer to discover.
Ecologically speaking, this is a very interesting area. It is precisely located at the transition zone between the sandy soils of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and the sediment of heavy river clay once deposited by the Kromme Rijn river. The transition from high to low elevations forces groundwater to resurface under pressure, creating a seepage spring. Previously, it was possible to find the grass snake (aka the ringed snake) slithering across this area; the largest snake in the Netherlands, which can grow up to be 1.20 meters long. Red-listed species that have been observed here include the purple hairstreak (a species of butterfly) and the scarce chaser (a species of dragonfly).
The Environmental Monitor was gifted by the Municipality of Utrecht to Utrecht University in 1990 for its 350th anniversary. The educational walking route that has been set up here was intended to allow the public to follow the natural conservation and undisturbed natural development that goes on here.
Right between the end of Toulouselaan and the west side of the student complex on Cambridgelaan, you will find 'The Triangle', a biologist's forest. This green gem of a nature reserve has been looked after by the Utrecht Biology Association (UBV) since 1975. Ever since its construction, biology students have been able to use it to gain priceless experience in the field while simultaneously making a personal contribution to the conservation of nature.
The Triangle is a lively area, hosting several unique animal species such as the grass snake, the kingfisher and the rare great crested newt. Additionally, the UBV manages a number of bee colonies housed in bee hives here.
The Triangle also exhibits several different types of vegetation including a chop wall made from ash wood on the east side and a diverse flower-rich hay field on the south side. The south side also has a pond which amphibians go crazy for, called 'the frog pool'. The north side is mildly overgrown with a lot of willow, blackberries and nettles growing freely.
Right now, the focus of The Triangle's management is on conserving the nature reserve as a resting area for its flora and fauna and preserving cultural-historical elements, such as the approximately 175 year-old ash wood chop wall. If you would like more information about The Triangle, get in touch with the UBV.
On the Leuvenlaan you will find the Nightingale Grove: the last bit of 'jungle' in the vicinity of Utrecht Science Park. Once upon a time, this grove had a grateful resident that you would only hear at night.
The last primeval forest
After the Second World War, the marshy ground around Fort Hoofddijk was no longer maintained. As a result, primeval forests of indigenous trees and shrubs arose. This bush is the last remnant of our wild forests here at Utrecht Science Park.
This grove is of great natural value. Insects feed on plants such as the native willow, oak and maple. The rough undergrowth of nettles and blackberries make the grove rather inaccessible, allowing ground-nesting birds to build their nests here. Take the nightingale, for example. Around the turn of the century, you could have been lucky enough to hear it sing at night. We’re hoping this beloved singer will be coming back to settle here!
The Utrecht Botanic Gardens are part of Utrecht University and are located in the heart of Utrecht Science Park. The Gardens, with a surface area of 9 hectares, are laid out on and around the 19th-century Fort Hoofddijk. Here you will find the beautiful Rock Garden, the Evolution Garden, the (sub)tropical plant collections in the Tropical Greenhouses, the Discovery Garden, a bee hotel and the Birdhouse.
The Gardens as an organisation date back to 1639, making them one of the oldest Dutch botanical gardens. The function of the Utrecht Botanic Gardens has changed somewhat in the course of its 375-year-long history, though their primary purpose was always to support education and research. Additionally, more and more emphasis has been placed on the Gardens' service to the public. Furthermore, in an international context, it plays an important role in nature conservation.
The Utrecht Botanic Gardens are open to the public daily from March 1st to December 1st, with regularly-organized special activities.
Amelisweerd is a river forest nestled in a bend of the Kromme Rijn. This old deciduous forest standing on clay soil is unique in the Netherlands. In the forest you will find the old knightly estates of Oud- en Nieuw-Amelisweerd and Rhijnauwen. Adjacent to Rhijnauwen is the Fort bij Rijnauwen, a monumental fortress from 1868 that is part of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (New Dutch Waterline).
The forest hosts many huge oaks and beech trees, some of which are more than two hundred years old. The largest specimens, sometimes with a trunk circumference of more than four metres, stand at the edge of the forest where they can find more light and oxygen. Furthermore, the forest consists of elm and ash woods. Early in the spring, you will see the forest lighting up with beautiful bright colors as the stinzenplants start to bloom. The wild tulip, common bluebell, wood anemone, snowdrop, lily of the valley and Solomon's seal are examples of stinzenplants, a sort of flora which is typically found on old estates, country estates, and park forests belonging to knightly homesteads.
More information can be found on the website of the Amelisweerd.
On the Oostbroek estate, deciduous forests alternate with old trees, marshland, an orchard with old fruit varieties, a monastery garden and some grasslands. The grasslands are partly grazed by Dutch Belted dairy cows (Lakenvelder) and partly mowed. Because of the variety of biomes, there are many different plant and animal species spread across this estate. The number of bird species is especially remarkable, as it includes various species of woodpecker and tit, short-toed tree creeper, Eurasian nuthatch, kingfisher, little grebe, buzzard and northern goshawk. The estate has a lot to offer in every season. In spring, the estate turns spectacularly white with thousands of flowering snowdrops.
For more information, see Oostbroek estate's website.
For the five-year anniversary of Green Office Utrecht, they received an awesome birthday present from Utrecht University: a Tiny Forest at Utrecht Science Park! The idea of having a Tiny Forest on campus came from Cas de Ruiter of the Utrecht Biologists Association.
A Tiny Forest is a dense, native forest the size of a tennis court. This forest is not only a pleasant place for butterflies, birds, bees and small mammals, but also for people! Students and staff will meet each other in a pleasant and healthy place and organise lectures or other activities here. A Tiny Forest on the campus would also provide cooling on hot days, more biodiversity, and some water storage in case of heavy rainfall.
The planting of the Utrecht Science Park Tiny Forest will start in the autumn of 2019. Keep an eye on this page for the latest news.