Remembering Es Andersen

From the Bay Leaf, California Native Plant Society East Bay Chapter, July/August 2000, by Phoebe Watts


The East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden lost one of its best friends and most dedicated volunteers when Esperance (Es) Anderson died on April 15 from complications following a stroke. Es had been a committed and enthusiastic volunteer since the 1970s.

Es grew up in New Zealand with botanists and gardeners on both sides of the family. She and her husband John (Jock) came to Berkeley with young children when Jock became a professor of classical archeology at the University of California. Es had many interests about which she was passionate: grand children, horses, dogs, birds, butterflies, gardening, native plants. She raised abandoned baby squirrels as a volunteer for the Lindsay Museum. Her latest passion was her brand new computer.

Es’s varied interests inevitably became integrated. She came to her love of California’s native flora through her love of birds. Wanting to create a garden to attract and sustain birds, she learned about plants that would provide food, nesting sites, or cover. She later did the same for butterflies and the plants on which they feed or lay eggs and then compiled the Garden’s ever-popular lists of bird- and butterfly-attracting plants that can be grown by home gardeners. Her enthusiasm for the Garden spread to her children and grandchildren, who came to help with the plant sale each year. Es knew Tilden Park intimately and explored it on horseback as well as on foot.


There are tangible reminders of Es’s many efforts on behalf of Tilden Park and the Botanic Garden. At the intersection of the Selby Trail with Shasta and Golf Course Roads, she and Jock planted a breathtaking native plant garden that has come to be known as "Anderson Hill” or "Es’s Mountain.” The most enormous and floriferous Fremontodendron in the park blooms on that corner. On and around the small hill that rises from the trailhead are many handsome and mature specimens of Ceanothus, Arctostaphylos, Ribes, Iris, Artemisia, Garrya, Salvia, and Carpenteria, to name just a few. Es also was instrumental in developing the butterfly garden at the Tilden Nature Area, and in establishing native plants around the Bird Rescue Center in Aquatic Park, Berkeley.

For some 20 years, Es has been "queen of the plant sale,” coordinating the activities of propagation volunteers throughout the year as well as at the time of the sale. The volunteers have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Garden through the sale and provided essential equipment for the Garden staff, as well as funding for fieldwork and publications.

Contributions to the Garden in Es’s memory may be made by sending checks payable to the Regional Parks Foundation to Steve Love, East Bay Regional Park District, 2950 Peralta Oaks Court, P.O. Box 5381, Oakland, CA 94605-0381. Please indicate that the donation is for the Botanic Garden’s Es Anderson fund.

-- Phoebe Watts

[Editor’s note: This article was drawn from articles written for Manzanita, the newsletter of the Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden, by Carrie Sprague and Sue Rosenthal. I thank them both. Any errors are my responsibility].