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Northwest staff planted a golden rain tree in honor of the 25th anniversary of the University campus' designation as the Missouri Arboretum. (Photo by Carly Hostetter/Northwest Missouri State University)

Northwest staff planted a golden rain tree in honor of the 25th anniversary of the University campus' designation as the Missouri Arboretum. (Photo by Carly Hostetter/Northwest Missouri State University)

Sept. 16, 2018

Missouri Arboretum celebrates 25th anniversary, champion trees

Northwest Missouri State University on today commemorated the 25th anniversary of its designation as the state of Missouri’s official arboretum by planting a tree and celebrating two other trees that now have the designation of state champion trees.

Community members, faculty, staff and students gathered as Pat Ward, the director of the Missouri Arboretum, and members of Northwest’s landscape team planted a golden rain tree outside the south entrance of the Garrett-Strong Science Building on the University campus.

The Missouri State Legislature designated the Northwest campus as the Missouri Arboretum in 1993. Today, the campus is home to more than 1,700 trees and more than 160 species cultivated from throughout the world. Three trails – the Gaunt Trail, Tower Trail and Chataqua Trail – traverse the campus to help visitors learn about the trees and get an up-close view of them.

The Northwest campus maintains a designation as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, and this summer it attained accreditation from the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and the Morton Arboretum as a Level II arboretum. It also has been named to a list of the “50 Most Amazing University Botanical Gardens and Arboretums in the U.S.” by

“I think we have the best first impression I’ve ever seen when you’re walking down The Long Walk and you see all of these beautiful trees and the beautiful campus,” Ward said, referring to the walking path that takes campus visitors from the campus’ Fourth Street entrance to the Administration Building. “But it’s much more than that. It’s a sense of place, of peace. I like to call it ‘a great repose.’”

During an afternoon program at Garrett-Strong that preceded the tree-planting, Ward noted the health benefits of spending time in green spaces and discussed plans to enhance the Missouri Arboretum by developing additional research projects with faculty and students and the continued planting of both native and non-native species.

This summer, two trees in the University’s collection received recognition from the Missouri Department of Conservation as the largest trees of their kind in the state. An Overcup Oak measuring 64 feet tall with a 76-foot spread was named the state champion, and an American yellowwood, measuring 40 feet tall with a 53-foot spread, is a co-state champion.  Both are located between the B.D. Owens Library and Garrett-Strong.

The University’s legacy of caring for trees and developing its lush landscape dates back to nearly 50 years before the institution’s founding in 1905. About 85 acres of the 330-acre campus were originally part of a tree farm and nursery established by Thomas Gaunt in 1857.

The idea of an arboretum on the Northwest campus started to grow during the 1980s after Dr. Johanne Wynne Fairchild, then an agriculture and biology instructor, had begun tagging the campus’ trees with the help of horticulture students. Eventually, she completed a listing of all of the campus’ trees and published the first in a series of “Tree Walk” pamphlets that included Northwest’s tree history as well as a listing of all tree species on the campus in 1992.

Through Fairchild’s efforts, University administrators and Facility Services staff members worked to ensure legislation was created that designated the Northwest campus as the Missouri Arboretum. The legislation was sponsored by Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, who was then serving his first term as a state representative.

Today’s program also featured Robert Hendrickson speaking about his work starting and servicing large garden centers and Steve Bailey, a plant and soil science expert who discussed his hobby of collecting and cultivating bonsai trees.

To learn more about the Missouri Arboretum and the commemorative tree program, visit


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215