Located on 13.5 acres on main campus, Auburn University’s botanical gardens, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, feature a collection of the native plants of Alabama and the southeastern United States.
With one of the oldest collections in the SEC, Auburn is also the only university in the conference to have a nationally accredited collection of any kind. The garden’s oak collection has carried that distinction since 2010, and the university’s azalea collection received accreditation this year.
“People call our gardens a hidden gem,” said Morgan Beadles, Davis Arboretum director. “I describe it more as a crowning jewel.”
Thanks to donors who supported the arboretum through Tiger Giving Day on Feb. 21, 2019, there has never been a better time to stroll through the gardens to see the living collections of plants, flowers, and animals that call the arboretum home.
Donated funds provided supplies to rebuild the bridge at the Arboretum, making it American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and wider to accommodate more than one person at a time.
“We are so grateful for the support we received to make our bridge-expansion project possible,” Beadles said. “We received 125 percent of our goal, which meant we were able to do even more to make our collection accessible to visitors.”
Students from Auburn’s McWhorter School of Building Science in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction designed and constructed the bridge, using composite wood material — recycled plastic and sawmill byproducts — which is more durable and environmentally sound.
“Working with the students was wonderful,” Beadles said. “Through their work on our bridge, they have left a lasting mark on Auburn’s campus that they will continue to visit for years to come.”
The arboretum’s bridge project is the most recent effort in an ongoing commitment to ensure the gardens are accessible and enjoyable for all visitors. Previous improvements include updated landscaping and relocation and placement of individual exhibits.
In 2018, Tiger Giving Day support provided lighting throughout a portion of the gardens, creating safe walkways for visitors to enjoy the arboretum’s collections from dawn to dusk. Diverse terrain, water features, a large pond and an array of live exhibits were difficult to navigate and enjoy after sunset prior to the lighting. Gifts to the project provided functional, subtle, and efficient lighting that enhances the enjoyment of the collection.
Planned future improvements include repainting the red covered bridge and arbors, expanding the lighting throughout the entire collection, and widening walkways to increase accessibility, ensuring everyone, regardless of mobility status, can enjoy the gardens.
Arboretum staff also hope to build a children’s garden and nature center in the future, creating an educational resource for children to play, explore, and interact while learning about their natural environment.