Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. Since Arbor Day is this week, we are highlighting some of the best places to take a hike and enjoy the beauty of some amazing trees in southern Illinois!
This Arbor Day immerse yourself in the woods, plant a tree, or enjoy a scenic and educational tree tour! Southern Illinois University Carbondale is well known for its beautiful campus and diverse arboreta and was recognized nationally in 2019 as the highest accredited university arboretum in Illinois. SIUC is now featured in the Morton Register of Arboreta after becoming the first university in the state to earn the Level II Arboretum Accreditation from the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. The 1,200-acre campus landscape features nearly 5,200 trees, including 155 species and 72 genera. Initially created for a tree ID course, identification QR codes were placed on a number of trees on campus. The Arboretum Advisory Committee expanded on the tree tagging effort and now 150 trees have received new maroon tags. The tags including a QR code, can be scanned with a smartphone or tablet camera and link to a website that identies the tree by common and scientific name and shows id markers such as bark, fruit, leaves, twigs and buds. This is the only program of its kind in the state, and one of few nationwide. 150 trees seemed like a fitting number as SIUC recently celebrated their 150th anniversary, however, more plants will be tagged in the future. SIUC expanded on the effort even further and now offers six self-guided walking tree tours ranging from 1.3-2.3 miles, covering different areas of campus. Full details for each tour can be found on the SIU Arboretum website. The Tree ID Tours include: The Southern tree tour is 1.3 miles and focuses on trees that are native to Southern Illinois. Printable PDF Map The Old Main tree tour is 1 mile and highlights older trees located near the area where Old Main once stood. Old Main was the replacement for Normal Hall, the first structure of what is now SIUC and served the university from 1887 until the 1969. Printable PDF Map The Marberry tree tour is 2.3 miles and includes many of Mr. Marberry’s diverse plant collection. William Marberry received a Bachelor of Education degree in 1935 from SIUC in Horticulture and Floriculture and became Assistant Professor of Botany at SIUC in 1939. He joined the Air Force in 1942 to serve in World War II and acquired many plants while stationed in India, China and Burma. He brought home eighteen coffee cans full of seedlings on his return flight, and even had some plants shipped back. Among his collections were several species including oriental maples, pines and junipers. He brought a Dauvrica Juniper from Shanghi, a Golden Bamboo from Handow, and several Oriental Scholar Trees (Sophora japonica) from the Forbidden City's Imperial Gardens in Peiking. In 1939 William Marberry purchased a 25-acre tract about 2 miles south of Carbondale and transformed it into the beautiful Marberry Arboretum. He later taught in the SIUC Botany Department and also took a campus-planting job with the Physical Plant. Many of the outstanding trees currently on the SIU campus were planted by Mr. Marberry during this time. Printable PDF Map The Saluki tree tour is 1.6 miles and focused primarily on native and non-native flowering trees. Printable PDF Map The Morris tree tour is 1.7 miles and focuses on trees planted around buildings built during the Morris era. Delyte Morris was elected as the University’s leader in 1948. During his 22 years at SIUC, Morris built upon the rich history of the University and lead SIU into the ranks of major American universities. Printable PDF Map The Campus Lake tree tour is 2.2 miles focuses primarily on trees around Campus Lake and their contribution to their ecosystem as well as a varied collection of habitats rarely found so close to a university campus. Printable PDF Map
While there are dozens upon dozens of amazing places in our 22-county area to peep some beautiful trees, there are a couple of spots that are truly unique. The first is Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County. Located on the banks of the Wabash River, Beall Woods attracts visitors from all over the country. People come from near and far to experience one of the few remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi River. At Beall Woods, visitors can see trees as high as 12 stories tall and three feet in diameter! Another fantastic location to admire trees this Arbor Day is at Piney Creek Ravine in Randolph County. While the flowing streams, beautiful bluffs, and the prehistoric rock art are all fantastic features of this area - so are some of the trees. Piney Creek Ravine is one of only two locations in the state where short-leaf pines grow naturally. Enjoy your Arbor Day! (MAIN PHOTO CREDIT: @phillipsfamilyadventureteam)
Arbor Day, held annually on the last Friday in April, is a day to celebrate trees and the vital roles they play in our communities. It is also a day traditionally set aside to plant trees. Spring is the perfect time to take walks and explore different varieties of trees around the region. In Mt. Vernon, Veteran’s Memorial Park has a wide variety of trees to examine and enjoy. While in Mt. Vernon, check out the Jefferson County Historical Village and the Goldman-Kuentz Sculpture Park at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. All are great places to get out and experience nature and the beautiful trees plentiful to our town. Several places are available to purchase trees in Mt. Vernon as well! Be sure to stop by Anchor Garden & Rental or Burkdell Mulch for trees, shrubs, other plants and unique finds for your yard and garden.
In honor of Arbor Day, visitSI would like to share a few ways to observe this important day of conservation. Arbor Day, literally meaning “tree day” is a holiday dedicated to the planting of trees! Plantscape Nursery in Herrin, IL has over two dozen types of trees available to be purchased and planted! If you don’t have the time or the space to plant your own tree, we would like to encourage you to visit and observe the majestic trees that reside within the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Various types of oak trees, maple trees, cedar trees, evergreen trees, and many more can be found throughout the differing landscapes of the Refuge. If you would like to do more to support the natural lands in our area, check out the Friends of Crab Orchard Refuge. You can join them in their volunteer efforts or donate to support their mission. There are many ways to make a difference and help protect our ecosystems, not just on Arbor Day, but every day!