CSU, Chico News

Spring Arboretum Tours Begin in February

Date: 01-27-2011

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico and Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park are jointly offering four tours of their extensive collection of native and exotic trees and shrubs this spring beginning on Friday, Feb. 25 and again on March 11 and March 25. The last tour will be April 8.

The easy and informative walks will meet at the gazebo in front of Bidwell Mansion Fridays at 10 a.m. and last until 11:30 a.m. Free parking is available in the Bidwell Mansion State Park parking lot for those participating in the walks.

Each tour will cover a different group of 20-30 trees 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 nuts. Other noteworthy specimens to be seen are monkey puzzle tree (from Chile), cockspur coral (Brazil), dawn redwood (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 planes (sycamores) were planted on the west side of the original administration building. A few of these remain, including the striking London plane tree in front of Kendall Hall, recently recognized as the "Founders Tree."

New tree plantings include red horsechestnut, black tupelo (sour gum) and cutleaf zelkova. Unusual old shrubs include several in front of the mansion: cockspur coral from Brazil, a white-flowered magnolia from China and a strawberry bush from southern France.

The trip leaders will discuss current horticultural and pruning practices as well as make suggestions as to selection of plants for Chico yards. They will also demonstrate how to select and plant young trees, how to choose a site and how to prepare soil. 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.

A map and guide to the mansion and the university trees and shrubs titled “Campus Trees” is available at the Bidwell Mansion Visitor Center along with 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 Durbin Sayers, manager of grounds; Wes Dempsey, professor emeritus of biology; and Gerry Ingco, retired USFS and California parks ranger.