AUBURN – Auburn University’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum has won national recognition for its extensive and valuable collection of oaks. Home to 38 species of oaks native to Alabama and the Southeast, including rare and threatened species, the arboretum has been honored by the North American Plant Collections Consortium as a member of its Multi-Site Quercus, or oak, Collection, a distinction given to select botanical gardens and arboretums. Auburn’s arboretum, in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, is one of only 20 from across the country to be accepted into the Quercus Collection.
“This recognition of the arboretum’s oak collection is really exciting for the university,” Dee Smith, curator of the arboretum, said. “It integrates Auburn University into a national organization of collections and increases the visibility of our research and conservation efforts.”
Two years before receiving the honor, arboretum staff had begun pursuit of membership in the Quercus Collection. Discovering it had to fill in some missing credentials, staff began working not only to create the missing documents, but also to increase and vary the number of oak species in its collection through acquisition of new oaks and acorns.
“For us to be considered for the collection, we had to demonstrate why and how we’d be valuable to their existing collection,” Smith said. “They didn’t have Southern Oaks, so by having this great Southern collection, we really set ourselves apart from the group as a desirable addition. It was our complete collection of oaks that enticed the consortium to include the arboretum in the Quercus Collection.”
The Donald E. Davis Arboretum will now be part of a group collaboration to increase conservation efforts and share genetic resources of plants. For example, the arboretum is home to the Boynton Oak, a species found only in Alabama. The arboretum will collect acorns from the Boynton and share some of the acorns with other Quercus Collection members outside of its native Alabama.
In addition, the arboretum has agreed to voucher its species by pressing leaf stems and acorns, if possible, and giving one sample to the College of Sciences and Mathematics John D. Freeman Herbarium on campus and two others to the Morton and Arnold arboretums. These vouchers will also aid in conservation efforts and scientific recording.
While the arboretum was recognized for its oaks, it also includes other holdings from azaleas to other native Southeastern species. To see the oak collection or the arboretum’s other plants, the public is invited to visit the arboretum seven days a week. Admission is free. For more information, go to http://www.auburn.edu/cosam/arboretum/.
(Written by Katie Horn.)