Take autumn adventure to Colonial Williamsburg

Published 3:05 pm Monday, October 21, 2019

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Foundation is active participant in Big Tree Program

By Kristi Hendricks

Mark your calendar for another autumn garden adventure and plan this time to travel to Colonial Williamsburg. Your destination will be CW’s officially certified arboretum comprised of tree and woody shrub species. The collection features 25 different species of oak trees amid 30 historic gardens. A significant number of the trees found in the arboretum were originally planted during the restoration period of the 1930s.

CW achieved arboretum status in 2018, but staff and volunteers didn’t stop there. In July, the Historic Area and commercial properties were upgraded to a Level II certified arboretum by ArbNet, the Morton Arboretum’s global community of arboreta and gardens.

The CW Foundation is also an active participant in the VA Tech Big Tree Program and is home to more than 20 trees listed on the Virginia Big Trees Register, including 18 state champions and one national champion tree. And the count is ongoing.

Landscape staff and volunteers demonstrated stewardship of more than 100 species of plants to secure arboretum accreditation. Now, CW is gearing up to offer additional educational and public programming focused on the arboretum. And visitors are also welcome to explore the natural seclusion of the Bassett Trace Nature Trail, a 1.4 mile walking trail.

Tidewater Virginians have always loved the native trees and period ornamental imports of the Historic Area. This experience is now enhanced by having over 180 trees and shrubs in the arboretum collection tagged for visitors to identify and discover the trees’ unique characteristics with a free QR reader app using a smart phone or tablet.

The following snippets provide just a hint of the plants included in the arboretum collection.

  • The Compton oak (Quercus x comptoniae) is a natural hybrid cross from the live and overcup oaks. A specimen tree on the Court House Green is a state champion big tree, measuring over 70 feet tall and 97 feet wide, with a trunk circumference of 14 feet.
  • Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) is native to Asia yet was introduced into North America in the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson noted a mulberry’s charm for densely shading a porch area. The inner bark is renowned in Japan for making paper lanterns and umbrellas. Find uniquely shaped mulberry specimens in many of the gardens.
  • Landscape professionals created the long arbors on both sides of the Governor’s Palace north garden with American beech (Fagus grandifolia) using a technique called pleaching. A long-lived native tree, the beech provides shelter and food for many mammals and birds.

Access to Colonial Williamsburg’s landscaped properties and iconic gardens is included with museum admission. A new guided arboretum-focused tour will launch in late September, so watch for the kickoff announcement on the CW website, colonialwilliamsburg.com.