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Union launches arboretum on campus

A weeping willow tree planted in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is just one of the trees in the new Union University arboretum. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
A weeping willow tree planted in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is just one of the trees in the new Union University arboretum. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.June 24, 2013 – Union University has started an arboretum on campus as an educational tool for area students and as a way for people to honor or memorialize loved ones.

Mark Bolyard, professor of biology, described an arboretum as “kind of a fancy name for a collection of labeled trees,” but said the labels on the Union trees have been intentionally developed to showcase Scripture verses and significant quotes from great thinkers and writers in the Christian intellectual tradition.

“Not only is this a good way to identify the trees that we have, but also a platform for adding more,” Bolyard said. “This is our attempt to continue making the campus more attractive.”

Others have attempted to start an arboretum in the past, but the efforts never gained momentum, Bolyard said. He said the campus is full of trees that have some significance to the university or are unusual in some ways.

For example, Union has a cedar of Lebanon that was a cutting from the original tree planted on the old Union campus in honor of President George M. Savage. A weeping willow tree on the campus was dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and a red maple was planted in honor of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Woman’s Missionary Union.

The arboretum will provide Union students with a collection of trees to identify, and it will also be a local draw for students in the community who have leaf projects of their own.

“This is yet another way that Union University can be of service to our local community,” Bolyard said.

The Union arboretum will join four other certified arboreta in the area – at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center, Liberty Gardens, First Presbyterian Church and Green Frog Village. Union is also in the process of developing a “virtual meta-arboretum,” which will catalog all the local arboreta’s trees is one searchable online database.

Bolyard said that biology faculty will work with local arborists to care for the trees in the arboretum. He also hopes to use a university greenhouse – for which the biology department is currently raising funds – to enhance the educational opportunities the arboretum provides.

To support the arboretum’s operation, Union provides two ways for people to be involved. The first is to adopt an existing tree on campus, which can be done in honor or in memory of an individual.

“It’s another opportunity for us to remember important individuals in our lives,” said Landon Preston, Union’s director of donor relations.

Tree adoption is available for $500, and those participating will receive a framed print of an artist’s rendering of the arboretum.

The second method of participation is the “Friends of the Union University Arboretum” program, with three annual giving levels -- $50, $100 or $250.

For more information about the arboretum, visit www.uu.edu/arboretum. To adopt a tree or to join the “Friends of the Union University Arboretum” program, call Union’s Office of University Relations at (731) 661-5050.


Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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