Parking Lot Nears Completion
Construction of the new Arboretum parking lot is nearing completion and is now open for vehicle parking. Landscaping and lighting installation remain to be completed. From the new parking lot, visitors will be able to access the greater part of the Arboretum's plant collection via a paved handicapable trail that will parallel the Valley Road and end in the Heath Cove. This feature will further improve access to the Arboretum for not only those with a handicap, but for those who might have difficulty walking and for parents with baby strollers.
Partial funding for the new parking lot has come from the same source as the funds for trail improvements - the Tennessee Department of Conservation, Recreational Trails Program.
Arboretum Society Spring Plant Sale
Shoppers at the Arboretum Society Plant Sale (Saturday, April 25, 2009) filled their wagons with colorful azaleas, Japanese maples, and many other choice plants. In the photo at right, courtesy of Charles Samuels (Society volunteer), life-member Peggy Turner tallies up one sale attendee's purchases. All proceeds from the plant sale are used to support the mission and programs at the University of Tennessee Arboretum.
Switchgrass Comes to the Arboretum
Well, not exactly. Actually, we've had switchgrass at the Arboretum for many years. The hillside just beyond the dwarf conifer collection was planted with a mixture of native warm season grasses in 1994, following the loss of a stand of pine trees from the tornado. The hillside was too steep to mow and was left barren after the clean-up. Evaluating this situation, a decision was made to plant grasses to demonstrate their conservation and wildlife benefit. Managing these grasses is easy. Each year we have simply used a controlled fire to burn the field, thus favoring these fire adapted grass species. Over time switchgrass has gained the advantage over the other grass species and now dominates this site.
Since the days of considering switchgrass solely as a grass for soil conservation and wildlife it has gained favor as a biofuel feed stock. Our humble hillside planting was far from what folks are thinking about for the commercial production of switchgrass. There is something more sinister afoot that makes this field of major interest to our UT researchers - rust and fungus diseases! It seems that switchgrass is not as disease-free as previously thought, and we just happen have a great (if you can call it "great") example of "what can go wrong, will go wrong!"
Having diseased switchgrass in a research facility like the UT Arboretum is like having gold! Throughout the summer, UT plant scientists have been knocking down our door to get samples that might show signs of disease resistance.
Besides the commercial varieties of switchgrass used for biofuel production, there are several varieties that are cultivated for their ornamental characteristics. It has been observed that some of the ornamental forms show signs of resistance to diseases that plague commercial varieties. Putting two-and-two together, our researchers have devised a scheme to challenge the ornamental varieties by planting them in an environment where the diseases are obviously present.
All of this leads to the main point of the story. This spring the UT Arboretum will be one of the University's test locations for switchgrass disease. Over seventeen different ornamental varieties of switchgrass will be planted in the vicinity of the hillside switchgrass area to begin this research initiative. Although arboreta are mostly about woody plants, we welcome this new feature as an example of how we can play a role in bettering our lives through science, and at the same time relish in the beauty of plants.
Thailand Students Visit the Arboretum
In an exchange program between the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture with the Kasetsart University in Thailand, students recently toured the University of Tennessee Arboretum in Oak Ridge. Kasetsart University has over 53,000 students enrolled in many fields of study. In 1917, it was the first Thailand institute to begin offering post-secondary educational programs in agriculture. The exchange program with the University of Tennessee has been in effect for several decades. In the photo at left, Richard Evans, Forest Resources Center and Arboretum Director, explains some of the Arboretum's tree research projects to the visiting students.
UT Arboretum Society Fall Plant Sale
The Society held its annual Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, October 10. Many plant treasures were found by participants who were looking for garden and landscaping specimens suitable for fall planting.
UT Arboretum Society "Owl Prowl"
The "Prowl" has become a favorite for all ages! Over 100 people attended this evening event on Saturday, October 24, 2010, to enjoy the "guest" owls brought by the Raptor Society and to look for "resident" owls in the woods of the UT Arboretum.
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