Grass strip experiment

You don’t have to look any further than Heidelberglaan to see the steps Utrecht University is taking towards more biodiversity. Whether it’s adding a ‘grass pavement’, or other ways to make room for more life, the UU is making long-term plans for Heidelberglaan while changing the way it’s currently managed. As time passes, the street layout will change, and its greenery will be managed in a more ecological manner.

As changes are taking place in the background, small experiments are already possible. An example of this is the trial with the so-called grass strip in front of the Administration Building (right in front of the Green Office). This summer, the Facility Service Centre and the Green Office of the UU ventured into a trial with this patch of green. Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see which plant species appeared.

The grass strip experiment (Photo: Dick Boetekees)

What kind of experiment is this?

For a while now, the vegetation on this strip has not been mowed. It will be left alone, so that the UU can see what will happen. Only the grass on the edges of the strip has been mowed, to leave room for people to sit.

What will the outcome be? Several scenarios are possible. In the least favourable case, nettles, thistles, and other plants considered undesirable for a residential-work area will spring up. In that case, landscaper will have to intervene. In the best case scenario, a dazzling range of colourful and indigenous flowers will offer eye candy to passers-by while also being good for biodiversity. But of course, it’s hard to make nature fit into a box. Scenarios in-between are also possible, and we as UU are curious to see the result.

Delta Plan for Biodiversity Restoration

In 2020, UU became a member of the national Delta Plan for Biodiversity Restoration. In May 2021, the UU Executive Board adopted a brand new biodiversity strategy

What challenges will the university face?

We have talked about getting to a more Biodiversity campus, but what challenge does the university face? Henk Legger, Technical Maintenance Manager of Outdoor Space, takes us through this topic. “To start with, one challenge which the university definitely does not have is a lack of necessary knowledge. We have all kinds of experts in house, whether that be in operations or among our scientists. When there are gaps in our knowledge, we can solicit advice from consultancy firms or nature organisations. We can always turn to Cruydhoeck – for example – with questions about sowing (seeding, seed) policy. One thing which brings a more complex challenge than one would think is..."

On the way to a more biodiverse campus

Anjelle Rademakers

Anjelle Rademakers, Green Office UU manager, believes that it is crucial for the university community to be aware of the processes within it. "That way, anyone who wants to can have a say and contribute knowledge and ideas to strengthen the process. We know that this strip of grass is not going to solve the biodiversity problem - it is too far from other greenery and it is too small an area for that. Actual change, however, can occur through new policies, such as the one the UU FSC is currently drafting. In the meantime, this experiment gives us a chance to get people thinking and to invite them to talk."

Will you join us in this experiment?

Would you like to contribute to this experiment or make a prediction based on your ecological knowledge? Contact the Green Office at

Plant species

At the time of writing, here are the plant species which seized this new opportunity on the grass strip in front of the Green Office: