SOU officiated its own Botanical Tour last Friday, October 27th at the Plunkett Center with a speech by Linda Schott, University President, and Michael Oxendine, head of Landscape Facilities and member of Ashland’s Tree Commission. The speeches were followed by a tour of about thirty featured specimen trees.
The Botanical Tour boasts 107 trees stretching the length of SOU’s main campus from the south side of Siskiyou Boulevard, all the way to the sports fields and Raider Village on the north side of the boulevard. Each tree on the tour has a plaque with its common name, scientific name, and a brief description. The plaques also have QR Codes travelers can scan with their smartphones, linking them to SOU Landscape’s website for more detailed information on the trees they see in the tour. Such information includes how wide and tall that tree grows, and a brief history of it too. Each QR Code is designated for that tree the plaque is describing on the tour.
“The Southern Oregon University Botanical Tour offers everyone who visits the SOU Ashland campus the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the many wonderful and important benefits of the diverse SOU urban forest through both the digital realm with the campus map tour, and the physical realm through the botanical plaques placed along each of the over 100 stops on the tour,” said Oxendine.
Oxendine wants to use the Botanical Tour as a means to educate students and citizens about the value of healthy urban forests. It’s Oxendine’s hope citizens also use the tour as a resource when selecting trees to plant in their yards and home landscapes. Oregon falls into plant hardiness zones 7 and 8, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), meaning citizens have a lot of choice for plants when touring SOU’s tour, because the local climate can support a wider variety of plants compared to most other areas in the U.S. Oxendine is working to get the Botanical Tour to be commissioned as part of Ashland’s network of trails, currently mapped from Lithia Park to Mt. Ashland.
Other SOU faculty have expressed their own enthusiasm in the upcoming unveiling as well.
“We are excited for the opening of SOU’s Botanical Tour to celebrate the diverse and extensive array of trees that enhance the natural beauty of the SOU campus and to highlight key initiatives that contribute to sustainability,” said Roxane Beigel-Coryell, SOU’s Sustainability and Recycling Coordinator.
The Botanical Tour started with a local family, the Thaldens asking Oxendine to identify a tree behind Susanne Homes for them out of curiosity. The Thalden’s suggested to Oxendine the various species around campus should be labeled, and the idea for the tour was formulated. The Thaldens even generously donated funds to make the plaques for the tour. Environmental Science student Daniel Collay, then put it on himself to make the plaques for his senior capstone project for the 2016-17 school year. His goal working alongside Oxendine, was to use the tour as a means to provide insight to SOU’s sustainability efforts and campus biodiversity.
“The Southern Oregon University Botanical Tour provided a hands-on outlet for my senior capstone project. It allowed me to transfer my skills from classroom into tangible objects that will hopefully be around forever. This will help students and the public become more educated about the multitude of species at SOU,” said Collay about his portion of the project.
Many of the trees around campus have been supplied by Plant Oregon since the 1980s, and some are part of the tour. Other trees were planted in the decades past as SOU’s landscape changed through the ages. There are even some trees on campus outdating the school itself.
SOU became a Tree Campus in 2014, and was the first Bee Campus in the nation, with its pollinator beds and bee habitats. The Botanical Tour will include these and other plants not currently slated for the original 107 tree tour.
For those interested, the SOU Landscape Facilities website contains its own “How to Guide” as a reference for other colleges to become tree campuses.