When Spring Comes to the Arboretum— Take a Hike!

May 08, 2017

By Linda Lane 

    When blooms start to burst forth in the Arboretum gardens, it’s the perfect time to meander the paths. You can choose among three paved trails—The Hummingbird, Australian Plants Uses, and World Tour Trails—as well as many unpaved pathways

     But, before starting on one of these adventures, be sure to stop and smell the flowers (literally!) at the Aroma Garden, which is located across the salvia waverlyroad from the entrance to Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop. Here you’ll find a variety of salvias, lavenders, oreganos, thymes, and other sweet-smelling perennials. Scents emanate from the flowers of some plants and the leaves of others. Then walk just the few steps to the Succulent Garden, which focuses on plants from coastal areas of California and Mexico. Though these are typically fragrance-free, they delight the eye with their exotically shaped and brightly colored leaves. Their unusual appearance is due primarily to the adaptations they must make to survive in areas where water is scarce. 

    The Hummingbird Trail, a length of ½ mile, starts up the hill at the stairs between the Horticulture I and II buildings. It then circles around on a mostly paved garden path, and, about halfway, intersects with the World Tour. There is no hummingbird garden per se, but these lively, colorful birds can be spotted anywhere and everywhere along the route. The Australian Plant Uses Trail begins at the east end of the Australian Garden and continues east towards the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) and “the Farm.” Signs next to some plants give not only the botanical and common names but also fascinating facts about their traditional aboriginal uses. For example, Grevillea (Proteaceae family) was used to extract a sustaining cool drink during desert crossings, and a paste was made from the roots to soothe ear aches and spear wounds. The World Tour begins at the Arboretum entrance parking lot and zigzags back and forth during the 1¾ mile round trip. Since this route includes all of the Arboretum’s central gardens, including the Hummingbird Trail, it offers you the opportunity to see wondrous plants from all around the world.

golden rod    Though still in its infancy, another area not to miss is the Butterfly Garden. It is adjacent to the California Native Garden and left of the path leading to the New Zealand area. The plants are mostly California natives so many can be found at local nurseries, such as Goldenrod (Solidago confinis), pictured left, the perfect plant with which to start your own butterfly garden.

plant ID sign    If you choose a self-guided tour, along the paths you’ll see many plant identification labels (pictured world tour trail signleft)—with the scientific name, the common  name, and the native habitat—as well as guide and sign posts that point to your destination. 

    If you prefer a guided tour with an expert docent, the Arboretum provides two options:

  • Free tours with the price of admission the first Saturday of each month (no reservations required; meet promptly at 11:00 am in front of Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop);
  • Request a personalized tour by filling out the form on the Arboretum Tours webpage; these tours are scheduled for groups of 4 to 15 people ($10 per adult, $5 per child), last 60 to 90 minutes, and are available in Spanish by special arrangement.