CSU, Chico News

Arboretum Tours Start February 26

Date: 02-16-2010

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park and CSU, Chico are jointly offering four tours of their remarkable collection of native and exotic trees and shrubs this spring on Feb. 26, March 12, March 26 and April 9. The easy and informative walks will begin in front of Bidwell Mansion 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 and State Parks. 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 still remain and still produce delicious nuts. Other noteworthy specimens to be seen are monkey puzzle tree (from Chile), 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) soon went in 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, recently dedicated as the Founders Tree.

Recent tree plantings include red chestnut, black tupelo, and cutleaf zelkova. 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. Last month, arboretum volunteers placed more than 200 tree labels on these and other plants to help visitors identify the specimens.

The trip 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, “Campus Creekside Nature Walk.” These can also be purchased at the campus bookstore and at the Department of Biological Sciences office 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 Durbin Sayers, manager of grounds; Emeritus Professor of Biology Wes Dempsey; and Gerry Ingco, retired forester.