ST. LOUIS – Metal, wire, and solar panels might not be what you expect to see right in the middle of a plot at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“I’ve likened it to a recently landed spacecraft. It can kind of look strange to guests,” said horticulturist Justine Kandra. She is talking about a weather station, permanently installed in the Kemper Center for Home Gardening in 2010.

“Having a weather station here allows us to have really accurate data related to conditions here at the garden,” she said.

Precipitation, temperature, and humidity all affect how the plants grow.

“The weather station also tracks things you might not expect to find in your local weather report, like soil moisture level, soil temperature, wet bulb temperature even, which is sort of like heat index, but measured in the sun,” Kandra said.

This data directly influences everything from the selection of plants on display down to the locations where they are planted. It also helps researchers who look longer term.

“Right behind us is our zinnia trial. We’re trialing plants that might be tolerant to or resistant to powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease affected by humidity and temperature,” Kandra said. “So, having the weather station track that data all through the trial period is really valuable information to include in a final report.”

And the Missouri Botanical Garden isn’t keeping the data to itself.

“That data is also useful for the National Weather Service, the Department of Conservation. All different organizations use the data,” Kandra said.

You can access the information as well.

“On our website, if you just type in weather station in the search bar, a link will come up that you can click on and it will bring up a really detailed view on the data that comes in from the weather station every hour,” she said.

If you have a weather station at your house, you can also track precipitation and temperature trends in your backyard.

“We all know, in St. Louis, it could be raining in north city a ton, and in south city it is bone dry,” Kandra said. “So having that really localized data can be extremely valuable to gardeners at home as well.”

You can use that data to select plants, trees, and flowers that will work best in your garden or landscaping. And if you have questions about that, Kandra says the Kemper Center at the botanical garden is ready to help you out.

“If there is any way we can help with your weather needs, let us know,” she said.