On your walk through this campus arboretum, you will learn about the many ways that trees affect us. They structure the way we think, improve water and air quality, assist scientists in climate and other types of research, inspire artists, furnish us with medicines, invite mindful reflection and even feelings of reverence, support wildlife, store carbon, promote psychological health, boost property values and commerce, ensure biodiversity, and provide memories that enrich our lives.
But that’s not all. Trees confer some practical, obvious benefits. Look at the trees that surround this gazebo. The tall tree in front of you, close to Rebekah Hall, is a pecan (Carya illinoinensis). At almost 200 calories per ounce, pecan nuts have fed humans for up to 8500 years. Native to the Mississippi Valley, pecans came to the attention of American colonists in the late 1770s; both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees. Today, pecan nuts are a half billion dollar industry, and Georgia’s orchards produce more than any other state.
As you turn a full 180° from the pecan tree, you will see the new addition to the Woodruff Quad, the ginkgo (Ginkgo bilboa). This ginkgo can be found elsewhere on our arboretum tour located near Campbell Hall. Along with being known as living fossils, ginkgos have been used for medicinal purposes in memory loss. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that “ginkgo seems to improve blood circulation, which might help the brain, eyes, ears, and legs function better. It may slow down Alzheimer’s disease by interfering with changes in the brain that interfere with thinking.”
The tree on the other side of the gazebo, just beyond the path, is a Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii). Woodworkers love red oaks like this species, the wood of which is close-grained, hard and strong. And what could be more practical at a college than pencils? The wood of choice for pencils is incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), which you can see elsewhere on your campus tour.