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Campus arboretum wins award for excellence

Published: Monday, October 31, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 11:11

Arboretum Award

(c) 2011

Midland University recently received the Affiliate Excellence Award 2011 for its arboretum. Pictured are, from left, Karen McMahon, member of the Midland Arboretum Steering Committee; Jordan Rasmussen, member of the Midland Arboretum Steering Committee; Dr. Gary Carlson, curator of Midland’s arboretum; and John Royster, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum Board President.

As students now walk across campus there is a distinct sound of leaves rustling, and even the crunching of a few leaves finding the bottoms of students shoes. On third floor of Swanson hall, Dr. Gary Carlson, curator of the heritage arboretum, keeps making notations of trees.

Carlson has been curator of the campus arboretum since 1995. In 1996, the school was granted affiliation into the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. In his time as curator he has seen the grounds of Midland University accumulate more than 700 trees.

This year was made special because on Sept. 23 Midland University won the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum Affiliate Excellence Site Award.

This award is given annually to an arboretum that demonstrates engagement with the community, excellence in collection, and proper maintenance practice. All of the trees in the arboretum on campus were either donated or purchased through grant money.

For Midland the arboretum is a product of disaster. Elm trees were abundant on the campus until a disease in the mid-1960s killed most of the tress. During the 1980s more than 150 trees and shrubs were planted on campus to help revive the grounds after being wiped out by disease.

The new life of trees on campus was due to landscape development by Peter Kiewit and Keep Fremont Beautiful. Planted with the intention of not having another "deforestation" of campus a wide variety of trees were planted.

"I never visualized, since we had 200 trees on campus at that time (1995), I never visualized 700 plus trees," commented Carlson.

Self-guided tours of the collection on campus are available to check out in the library. When looking at the map of the trees on campus you can cross reference to find the exact type of tree.

The binders that contain the tour information are just the beginning. Every year the university has to give updated reports on the campus trees to maintain certification. Students on campus have been helping Carlson with this.

"So far, I have been working on collecting data from trees around campus for a national research project," said sophomore Whitney Dooley.

"I have measured the trunk diameter, total tree diameter, tree height and the amount of new growth for the last growing season. Dr. Carlson and I have also classified the trees' overall shape."

According to Carlson, there are about 60 of the 730 trees on campus documented in this fashion. Most of the trees on campus are named in the honor or memory of an individual. With the extensive variety of trees and well-documented records Midland attracts not only locals who enjoy trees but people from out of state as well.

"We will aggressively pursue any opportunity that comes along to plant a tree," he said. "We had four nurseries gather seeds this fall. We also have people who come to do research projects on our trees."

"One gentleman from the University of Minnesota is working on a project about dogwoods and diseases."

When asked about specific trees on campus Carlson can give the name of the tree, year it was planted, and even tell a fun story about, that is if the tree has one. An example of this is the Gingko tree that drops fruit on the center of campus.

Anyone wanting to become involved with the Midland Arboretum can contact Carlson through his campus e-mail address,

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