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From the Department Chair

I’m a horticulturist…and have been since about 1974. That’s the year I stumbled into a landscape plant identification course as an undergraduate student and realized that I could build a career and make a good, honest living knowing something about plants and how they can be used to enhance outdoor living spaces and improve our quality of life. My parents didn’t fully understand my choice of majors and neither did my buddies in the dorm, and I suspect many of you reading this message and visiting this web site for the first time might have similar questions and perhaps a few misconceptions about horticulture and what horticulturists actually do. But that’s okay…we’re here to help, and to introduce you to the science, artistry, and practical applications borne of this most worthy discipline…horticulture.

First and foremost, horticulturists like plants and enjoy learning and understanding how they work. At our core, we’re plant scientists and have a deep appreciation for the many ways horticultural crops make our lives better on a daily basis. Horticulturists grow and utilize plants to improve the human condition. From blueberries to poinsettias to shade trees, horticultural crops feed us, improve our environment, and brighten our days. Just imagine summer without tomatoes, autumn without sugar maples ablaze in shades of red and orange, or spring without the beauty and fragrance of lilacs and crabapples. Not a very pleasant thought actually, but fear not because as horticulturists…we have your back. And you can count on us to grow the bedding plants, design the landscape, manage the golf course, maintain the trees, harvest the peppers, and do it in an environmentally responsible manner, year after year.

So, why don’t you join us. Our courses are challenging but fun. Our instructors are some of the most accomplished and respected in the country. Our facilities are second-to-none. Our student clubs are among the best on campus. And when you graduate…you’ll have several employment opportunities from which to choose. I know this because our faculty will do all they can to educate and prepare you for a fulfilling and rewarding career in horticulture. To be sure, you’ll work hard, but you’ll also have fun and meet people who’ll become lifelong friends. These will be some of the best years of your life.

Next time you’re on campus, stop by for a visit. I’d be glad to show you around.

Jeff Iles, Professor & Chair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

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