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The Northwest Arboretum is the premier site of the Missouri Arboretum. Northwest Missouri State University was named the official Missouri Arboretum by the Missouri State Legislature in 1993.
The Arboretum won the 2000 Communitree Award "for exemplary stewardship of community trees." The University and the City of Maryville were rewarded with the 2001 Communitree Award for the bypass project east of Maryville at the intersection of Highways 71 and 136. The awards were presented to the Missouri Arboretum by the Missouri Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council and the Forestry Division of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Northwest Missouri State University is located in Maryville, Missouri, a Tree City USA with a very active Community Forestry program since 1998.
Every location has its own sense of place. The trees growing in the Missouri Arboretum give Northwest a very welcoming sense of place. Visitors to campus get a sense of entering a residential neighborhood rather than an institutional setting. The trees are only part of the experience. Benches, gardens, and gathering areas provide places to visit and enjoy each other's company as well as the lovely surroundings.
Managing an arboretum which is used as a workspace and laboratory on a busy campus is a challenge. Seasonal changes, tree life cycles, and the needs of a variety of users of that workspace sometimes conflict. Trees are planted, pruned for a variety of purposes, and removed when their existence conflicts with the way we need to use their space. Sometimes they are in the way of construction projects. Sometimes they senesce and decline due to their age and due to the tough conditions in which they must live.
Northwest's history of tree management goes back to its earliest days, when groundskeepers interplanted fast-growing, short lived trees with slow-growing, long lived trees. This rapidly brought beauty and shade to the new campus. After the sturdy slow-growing trees became established, the fast-growing but weak trees were removed. One of the long-lived shade trees planted was American elm. During the 1970s, Dutch elm disease wiped out all but one of the American elm trees on campus (which finally died in 2005). Groundskeepers began planting a wide variety of trees in hopes that a single disease would never be able to wreak so much havoc. Biodiversity remains a goal for plant accession today.
Trees growing in forests compete with each other for the scarce resources of sunlight, essential elements, and water. Trees growing on campus compete with lawn grasses for moisture and essential elements. They have to deal with soil and climate factors that are radically different from the forests where they grow best. We care for them in this artificial environment in a way that imitates their natural environment as best it can. The thick layer of leaf mulch in forests is replaced with a ring of wood chip mulch to discourage the fierce competition from grasses. The mulched area also keeps mowers and weed trimmers from damaging the vulnerable root crown at the base of the tree. Trees in forests are self-pruning. On campus, where the trees are open-grown, We prune them to improve their form, to minimize conflict with people and vehicles, and to enhance pedestrian safety.