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October 7, 2009 – News & Views


This Bald Cypress tree near the Sulphur Spring at Phillips Hall dates back to the late 1800s.
Photo by Linda O’Horo

OWU’s Arboretum Provides Beauty, Botanical Examples
Students to provide public ‘Tree Trek’ tours of Jane Decker Arboretum on Oct. 24

In the early 1860s, Dr. Joseph H. Creighton, pastor of Delaware’s St. Paul’s Methodist Church, visited the Shaw Arboretum in St. Louis. Inspired by what he saw, Creighton decided to create an arboretum on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University.

Between 1863 and 1870, Creighton already had planted nearly 1,000 trees and shrubs on the OWU campus, seeking to plant every variety native to the local area. Various classes throughout the years also planted trees, which are now part of the arboretum. Though many of the original trees have been lost to time, some remain as living tributes to Creighton and his vision.

This Ginkgo tree, an ancient species from China, is located behind Slocum Hall. It bears a fleshy seed with a strong-odor. In the early 1960s, Ohio Wesleyan needed to enlarge its library in Slocum Hall. OWU planners spared this Ginkgo tree, and built Beeghly Library instead.
Photo by Linda O’Horo

In 1988, the arboretum was named in memory of Jane Decker, an OWU botany professor who shared her love of plants with students and co-workers for 20 years. Today, the Jane Decker Arboretum includes 105 species of trees and woody plants from various areas of the world, including some planted in recent years.

Ohio Wesleyan is inviting the general public to participate in a free “Tree Trek” in the Jane Decker Arboretum at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. Tours by botany department students will start from the University Hall Plaza, 61 S. Sandusky St. (located between University and Slocum halls). Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes during the Tree Trek tour.

OWU students recently left the classroom to examine arboretum trees on campus with David Johnson, botany professor.
Photo by Linda O’Horo

“My colleagues and I regularly use the arboretum trees in teaching our botany courses,” says David Johnson, professor of botany-microbiology. “We use them not only to teach tree identification, but also to examine the microscopic structure and function of tree leaves, to show how insects such as the emerald ash borer attack and damage trees, and to estimate the amount of carbon that can be stored in the woody tissues of trees.”

For nearly 140 years, the arboretum has been an important educational resource for OWU’s botany students. It also is a potential community outreach opportunity to bring the public and area school students to campus for “Tree Trek” visits.

Anyone wishing to take a self-guided tour of the arboretum should contact David Johnson at dmjohnso@owu.edu or Nancy Murray at namurray@owu.edu. They can provide printed Tree Trek guides for general use, with a second version for children. Amanda Masters ’08 wrote the guides, which were illustrated by Kate Ball ’11.

– Linda O’Horo