CSU, Chico News

Campus and Bidwell Mansion Arboretum Tours November 20, 27 Feature Native and Exotic Plants

Date: 11-19-2007

Joe Wills
Public Affairs
Gary Vercruse
Manager of Grounds

California State University, Chico and Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park are jointly offering tours of their extensive collection of native and exotic trees and shrubs on November 20 and 27. The easy and informative walks will begin at the gazebo in front of Bidwell Mansion Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and last until 11:30 a.m.

Each tour will cover a different group of plants on the mansion and university grounds and will be led by horticulturists and botanists from the University. Included will be the magnificent southern magnolia, located in front of the mansion, which was planted by General Bidwell in 1863 preparatory to the building of the mansion some years later. South of the mansion, along Sowilleno Avenue, the Bidwells planted American chestnuts, some of which remain and still produce delicious nuts. Other noteworthy specimens to be seen are monkey puzzle tree (from Chile), bunya bunya (from Australia), dawn redwood (from China) and water oak (southern U.S.).

Along the south side of Chico Creek, Bidwell planted various oaks that still survive. In 1887, when the State Normal School was established in Chico, California incense cedars and London plane (sycamore) were planted on the west and south sides of the original administration building; a half dozen of these remain, including the striking plane tree in front of Kendall Hall, sometimes referred to as the “Founders’ Tree.” Recent tree plantings include red chestnut, black tupelo, cutleaf zelkova and many others. Unusual old shrubs include several in front of the mansion: cockspur coral from Brazil, a white-flowered magnolia from China, and strawberry bush from southern France.

The tour leaders will discuss current horticultural and pruning practices as well as make suggestions as to selection of plants for Chico yards. Participants are encouraged to bring in leaves from plants they wish to have identified or talk about problems they are having with insects or diseases.

Available at the Mansion Information Center is a map and guide to the mansion and the University trees and shrubs, titled “Campus Trees.” Also available is a map and guide to the Campus Creekside Nature Walk. These can also be purchased at the campus bookstore and at the office of the Department of Biological Sciences in Holt Hall.

Further information about the tours can be obtained from the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park at 895-6144 or from the University at 898-6222. Leaders of the tours will be Gary Vercruse, manager of grounds, and Wes Dempsey, professor emeritus of biology.