Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The term arboretum, a place where woody (tree, shrub, and vine) plants are grown for scientific study and/or educational purposes, is often used interchangeably with botanical garden. A botanical garden may also include herbaceous (nonwoody) plants and may have an arboretum collection as part of its program.

In the Great Plains, arboretums and botanical gardens are vital components in the residents' quality of life; they have long taken their cultivated plantings seriously. Arbor Day, an annual tree-planting day now observed throughout the United States and in several other countries for the purpose of foresting, reforesting, or beautifying, was first advocated by Julius Sterling Morton of Nebraska. In 1872 Nebraska was the first state to recognize Arbor Day.

Arboretums and botanical gardens in the Great Plains serve varied purposes: for ornamental demonstration plantings suited to particular climatic conditions; for plant hardiness and variety improvement research; for environmental, conservation, and plant science studies; and for recreation and aesthetics. They can be as urban as the Denver Botanical Garden, as rural as the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, Kansas, as nonnative as the Nikka Yuko Garden in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Education is an important mission of all arboretums and botanical gardens. The Morden Arboretum in Manitoba, occupying about 60 acres of a 640-acre federal government research farm started in 1915, evaluates and develops hardy landscape plants and in turn works closely with industry to disseminate information. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in Wyoming, started in 1976 and operated by the city park system, serves the community as a source of horticultural demonstration and education in its 6,800-square-foot passive solar greenhouse and outdoor gardens.

Nebraska and Oklahoma have distinctive network systems of arboretum sites across their states. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, started in 1978, has forty-eight diverse a.liated sites, including the University of Nebraska Botanical Garden and Arboretum on two Lincoln campuses, featuring hardy and experimental plantings to enhance the teaching, research, and public service mission of the institution. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum is also involved in rare plant conservation as an affiliate of the national Center for Plant Conservation. The Oklahoma Botanical Garden and Arboretum, started in 1991 by Oklahoma State University at Stillwater, has thirteen affiliate sites, including the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge in downtown Oklahoma City.

Plant collections exist in nearly all areas of the Great Plains. University campus sites include McCrory Gardens/South Dakota Arboretum at South Dakota State University in Brookings, Patterson Garden at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and Devonian Botanic Garden at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Independent organizations operate the historic International Peace Garden on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba, and Botanica, the Wichita Gardens in Kansas. Province, city, and university interests operate the 2,300-acre Wascana Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Fort Worth, Texas, Botanical Garden, started in 1933 and operated by the city park system, is the oldest of its kind in the Southern Great Plains. Plant evaluation trials are conducted at the North Dakota State University Research Arboretum.

The trend in landscape design today is one of developing a regional style. In the Great Plains, this approach includes using more native plants in a less formal design.

See also ASIAN AMERICANS: Nikka Yuko Garden / IMAGES AND ICONS: International Peace Garden.

Twyla Hansen Nebraska Wesleyan University

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