Faculty plan to better use arboretum

Located off campus, the arboretum is difficult to get to.

The Maze Garden is one of the newest gardens at the Arboretum. It contains 1600 shrub specimens, contains 11 genera and 14 species and cultivars and is nestled into the pine collection across from the lindens.

Anthony Kwan

The Maze Garden is one of the newest gardens at the Arboretum. It contains 1600 shrub specimens, contains 11 genera and 14 species and cultivars and is nestled into the pine collection across from the lindens.

by Rachel Raveling

Mary Meyer, a professor and horticulturist at the University of Minnesota, has spent the past year on sabbatical, visiting arboretums and botanical gardens around the country.

This fall she returned with ideas to encourage faculty and students to utilize the space.

The 1,100-acre arboretum, which Meyer said is beautiful, is located nearly 30 miles away in Chanhassen where students can use it to relax and learn.

Though the arboretum houses community events throughout the year, it is not utilized by the University as often as it could be, she said.

âÄúStudents donâÄôt realize itâÄôs here,âÄù she said. âÄúI feel bad students donâÄôt utilize the resources here.âÄù

The UniversityâÄôs landscape arboretum features several collections of species as well as specialty gardens like the maze garden to the âÄúGardens of EatinâÄôâÄù with 12.5 miles of garden paths and hiking trails.

At a recent seminar Meyer introduced her idea to bring more students and faculty into the space. Last Wednesday, she pitched a program called âÄú10 Plants that Changed MinnesotaâÄù that would be held at the arboretum. She said it was well received and plans are moving forward.

According to her plans, faculty, students and community members will nominate plants that they think helped shape Minnesota in some way. The plant may have shaped the stateâÄôs history, economy or culture. Plants featured could also be popular foods or used for medicinal purposes.

After the nominations, a group of faculty members and staff will join to decide the top-10 plants and design a curriculum for the seminar, Meyer said. The class would be offered to both University students and students from surrounding colleges who could transfer the credits.

They will begin taking nominations in the next week and hopefully have the first class during May term or this summer, Meyer said.

Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences said the UniversityâÄôs arboretum is a resource students should make the most of.

Distance is the biggest thing keeping students from visiting the space, he said.

One arboretum Meyer visited on sabbatical was at the University of California-Davis, which maintains several active projects ranging from art to geology. She said UC Davis is fortunate because the arboretum is located right on campus.

While MinnesotaâÄôs arboretum is farther away, it makes up for the long trip by having more space for prairies and natural woods, Meyer said. ItâÄôs not limited in size like the space at UC Davis.

If more programs like MeyerâÄôs âÄú10 PlantsâÄù go forward, the University would try to set up a transportation system for students, Levine said.

Since the arboretum is not currently incorporated into classes, many students are unfamiliar with the opportunities it provides for research, education and relaxation.

âÄúI have never been informed about it. I do not really know where it is, what exactly it is or why it is worth visiting,âÄù said Amy Palmer, a marketing and international business senior.

She said she thinks more students might be interested in going if the arboretum were better publicized.

Arboretum staff members are encouraging University faculty members to get involved as well.

Meyer said other schools like Smith College in Massachusetts offer incentives to instructors to incorporate the arboretum or botanic gardens into their classes. They are usually provided financial assistance, she said.

Meyer said she hopes to start something similar at the University with a task force assigned to getting all the UniversityâÄôs colleges and faculty involved.

âÄúPeople tend to take plants for granted,âÄù she said, âÄúbut when you come [to the arboretum] you can really appreciate them.âÄù