Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are celebrating the University of Michigan’s bicentennial with the Grandmother Tree Walk, a self-guided journey through Michigan time that looks at the people, places and events in U-M’s 200-year history from the perspective of trees.
The tour, which runs through Dec. 31, features 12 trees and their stories, and how they connect with events happening at the university when the trees started growing.
Arboretum visitors can learn about such trees as the Japanese weeping cherry near the Alex Dow Field. The tree was donated to the university in 1952, along with dozens of other cherry trees, by the people of Tokyo and U-M alumni living in the city at the time. It’s a rare survivor from the original group of trees donated more than 60 years ago.
The university established a botanical gardens and arboretum more than 100 years ago to give faculty and students a place close to campus for the study of trees and other native flora, says Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese.
“Celebrating the trees of Nichols Arboretum is a particularly fitting way to participate in the university’s bicentennial,” he said.
The oldest of the trees — the 167-year-old tuliptree —dates nearly to the beginning of the university, and others were added over time to coincide with special events or locations around the world being studied.
“Trees have long been one of the ways people mark the passage of time, so linking our trees with special events in the university or world history at the time they were planted is especially apropos,” Grese said.
Grandmother Tree Walk maps are available at the Washington Heights and Geddes Road entrances to the Arb and at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
Later this year, the Arb and Gardens extends the tree theme for the bicentennial with a planting of two locally grown native white oaks, one at Matthaei and one at Nichols Arboretum. Two hundred white-oak seedlings will also be given away this fall.