Arboretum News

A Good Day in the Arboretum

Erim Gomez with Tree

[WSU graduate student, Erim Gomez, with red oak tree being moved from near the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.]

Today was a good day. But then, any day you can plant a tree is a pretty good day. That’s especially true if you’re planting two nice, nearly 10-foot-tall red oak trees in the new WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC).

During a meeting of our Arboretum Committee last week, Kathrin Brun, perhaps better known as “Kappy” by friends and colleagues, asked if the arboretum could use two red oak trees. Kappy supervises all the grounds work on the beautiful WSU campus in Pullman. As you might imagine, it took us only a split second to say, yes! Absolutely!

The two red oak trees were planted along the sidewalk near the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, but they had to be moved because some underground facility lines were going to be installed through the site.

Kappy assured me that the trees should be pretty easy to move because they were only about an inch in diameter and had been planted just last year. In fact, she thought that they probably hadn’t yet grown out of their original root ball. Nonetheless, my graduate student, Erim Gomez and I grabbed a pickup truck with a hydraulic lift gate, and threw in heavy duty shovels, a couple of pick axes, and heavy pry bars - just in case.

As you can see from the photo, Erim and I had a pretty good laugh when he walked over to the first tree, and with only a hard tug or two, pulled it up right out of the ground. Kappy was right. No new root growth yet. So given the warm weather and mild winter here on the Palouse this year, it wasn’t a bad time to move the trees.

Arboretum Woodland

[Red oak trees (center front and right) planted on the edge of the arboretum woodland.]

Planting the trees in the arboretum was a little more work, because we had to break through some frozen soil on the surface with a pick axe to make the planting holes large enough to give the trees a good start in their new home.

The site we selected is near a path that the public has created along the edge of the existing woodland in the arboretum. This patch of woods has been designated as a naturalized forest in the new master plan for the AWCC.

By keeping and actually expanding the forest, it will allow researchers, such as me, to continue to use the forest for studies of wildlife and plants. The forest already is home to nesting hawks and owls, and it has other birds and bats as well. Last summer, while conducting studies of wetlands in eastern Washington, Erim and I discovered extremely high densities of amphibians, primarily long-toed salamanders and Pacific tree frogs in the adjacent small ponds.

This arboretum forest gradually will be expanded and its composition changed over many years to make it a mixed conifer-deciduous forest that will serve as a bird and wildlife sanctuary. However, it’ll also make an excellent home or nursery for introducing native plants that require a forested environment. WSU students are already cutting a nature trail through the thick underbrush.

Red Oak Leaf The two oak trees are a wonderful addition to this mixed woodland and will add considerable wildlife value when they mature enough to begin producing “mast” or acorns. Being red oaks, the trees also will add gorgeous colors to the edge of the forest during fall. And because many oak trees tend to have leaves that persist on the tree in the non-growing season, oaks will add interest and substance to the woodland even during winter.

In the background of the above photo of Erim Gomez, you’ll note larger oak trees planted across the street from the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. You can see that by the time oaks reach that size, their limbs are already stretching out widely. So if you too decide to have a good day and plant an oak tree some where, be sure to give it a large lawn space with room to spread.

Many thanks to Kappy Brun for making today a really good day in the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center!

Historic Ferry Hall Cupola Saved

Ferry Hall Cupola

At the end of July, I was treated to an inspiring sight while walking to my office on the Pullman campus of Washington State University. For the last 30 years, WSU’s historic Ferry Hall Cupola has had a rather quiet life as a small gazebo tucked under shade trees in front of Murrow Hall. However, the Library Road construction project, which connects Terrell Mall with an extensive pedestrian mall transecting the north and south side of campus, required that the Ferry Hall Cupola be moved.

Capital Planning and Development contacted the WSU Arboretum and Botanical Garden Advisory Committee in spring, 2008, to determine whether the structure could find a home in the WSU Alumni Arboretum adjacent to the Lewis Alumni Centre. Not surprisingly, the answer was a resounding, yes!

The WSU Alumni Arboretum is a relatively young arboretum site on campus and other than a winding path, a seating area, and young trees and garden plots, it lacks any significant architectural structure. However, because it is next to the Lewis Alumni Centre and close to the central part of campus, the two-acre arboretum site is an important green space on campus. Many campus visitors enjoy such scenic attractions for photo opportunities and it is common for the Alumni Centre to receive inquiries about whether weddings can be held on campus. The historic Ferry Hall Cupola offered a perfect solution for both needs.


On July 30, 2008, the Ferry Hall Cupola was moved from the Murrow Hall site to the WSU Alumni Arboretum. As the crane carefully lowered it onto a new foundation, it was apparent that the Cupola would have a dramatic visual impact on the arboretum.

The WSU Arboretum and Botanical Garden Advisory Committee will now work with students and faculty to undertake landscaping projects during the next several years to compliment the Ferry Hall Cupola and make it a distinctive scenic attraction on campus. And for the first time, the Lewis Alumni Centre may be able to accommodate some requests for weddings by allowing the Ferry Hall Cupola to be used for future outdoor wedding ceremonies and photos during spring, summer, and early fall. A policy for use of the Cupola is currently being drafted and it is likely that a reservation fee will be used to provide funds to help maintain the historic structure in the arboretum.

The Ferry Hall Cupola provides an interesting lesson and window into the early history and landscape of Washington State University. Ferry Hall was the first large building constructed at the then, State College of Washington, in 1892. Ferry Hall was a dormitory with men and women living on separate floors. In 1897, a kitchen fire quickly spread throughout the structure and destroyed it.

A new building with a Georgian facade and a distinctive bell tower was constructed two years later and given the same name, although it was sometimes called the “New” Ferry Hall. The New Ferry Hall was also a dormitory and was one of the major buildings on campus until the mid-1970’s when it was taken down to make room for new buildings. However, the bell tower was saved and became the Ferry Hall Cupola or Gazebo.

Ferry Hall was involved in what is known as the “Influenza Epidemic of 1918 at WSU” that tragically claimed the lives of 42 students. Nearly 700 WSU students developed influenza and the State Epidemiologist ordered a complete quarantine of the Washington State College. Students who became ill were kept in the campus hospital, but also the Gymnasium, Wilson Hall, Ferry Hall, and the Mechanical Arts Building.

According to historical information from the WSU archives collection, “Miss Agnes H. Craig, head of the College of Home Economics, along with the entire home economics faculty, aided by sixty-two women students, prepared special diets for the ill students. When the epidemic was at its worst, they prepared over 900 meals per day, and by the end of it all they had served over 17,000 meals.”

Some historical photos from the WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, as well as current photos of the Ferry Hall Cupola as it begins its new life in the WSU Alumni Arboretum are shown below. These photos also illustrate the dramatic transformation of the bare WSU campus that began with landscaping accompanying these “new” buildings in the late 1800s.

Ferry Hall 1893

[Photo from Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections: Ferry Hall in 1893 after construction. Note the complete lack of trees and shrubs on the campus landscape. Only a fire hydrant and electrical power lines are visible.]

Ferry Hall Cabbage Patch

[Photo from Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections: Ferry Hall on bare hilltop after construction. Men are tending a cabbage patch.]

Ferry Hall 1895

[Photo from Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections: Ferry Hall in 1895. Note the first small trees and shrubs.]

Ferry Hall Fire 1897

[Photo from Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections: Ferry Hall in 1897. A fire started in the kitchen and quickly consumed the entire structure.]

New Ferry Hall

[Photo from Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections: The “New” Ferry Hall in 1900. Note the bell tower on top of the building.]

Ferry Hall Cupola by Murrow Hall

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola in its previous location on the lawn in front of Murrow Hall.]

Ferry Hall Cupola in Arboretum

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola after being moved to its new location in the WSU Alumni Arboretum adjacent to the Lewis Alumni Centre.]

Cupola Foundation

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola has been placed on a solid new foundation in the WSU Alumni Arboretum.]

Alumni Centre in Background

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola is now just a short distance away from the Lewis Alumni Centre (in background).]

Lewis Alumni Centre

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola and the surrounding WSU Alumni Arboretum will soon be used for special alumni events by the Lewis Alumni Centre.]

Cupola Door Frame

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola is constructed of wood and will require ongoing maintenance for preservation.]

Ferry Hall Plaque2

[Photo: The historic bronze plaque that recognized some of the residents who first contributed to originally saving the Ferry Hall Cupola will be mounted for display at the new site in the WSU Alumni Arboretum.]

Ferry Hall Cupola

[Photo: The Ferry Hall Cupola will now be landscaped and will undoubtedly be used for summer weddings and other events in the WSU Alumni Arboretum adjacent to the Lewis Alumni Centre.]

Alumni Arboretum Plaque

[Photo: Bronze plaque on the pathway wall in the WSU Alumni Arboretum at the Lewis Alumni Centre.]

Master Planning Begins

Pullman Master Plan

Following on the heels of the recent establishment of the WSU Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, an exciting master planning process is beginning in fall, 2008, which will engage the WSU community in a visioning process for the new arboretum. Through a competitive process, an outside design firm with experience in arboretum design and development will be selected and will begin work with faculty, students, and the public this fall and winter to help identify a collective and unique vision for the WSU Arboretum.

Master planning is critical to the success and mission of any arboretum because it allows the necessarily long-term process of arboretum development, that quite naturally takes decades, to be completed in a series of smaller, more manageable and integrated steps. Each step along the way builds new features and design elements that ultimately unite and contribute to the beauty of a fully mature arboretum.

Master planning is also important because the new WSU Arboretum and Botanical Gardens will begin its mission with empty pockets. A funding program for the WSU Arboretum has not been established and it will be important for donors and contributors who are committed to help establish the arboretum to be able to see the long-term vision for the facility. By having a conceptual master plan, future donors will be able to see the overall design of the future arboretum and have opportunities to contribute to specific projects, facilities, gardens, and other special features of the arboretum.

Arboretum Committee

[Photo: Members of the WSU Arboretum and Botanical Garden Advisory Committee, (L-R) Bobbie Ryder, Caroline Pearson-Mims, Chuck Cody, David McCarroll, Jay Baker, Kappy Brun (facing away), and Gene Patterson survey the future arboretum site and discuss the process of master planning.]

One of the features that will make the WSU Arboretum and Botanical Gardens truly unique and distinctive among existing arboreta and public gardens around the world is the inclusion of a wildlife center to highlight the important work of WSU faculty and students on threatened and endangered species and the conservation of biological diversity of the natural world. One of the unique features of the WSU Arboretum will be that it will have facilities and programs that display the science behind both plant and animal conservation.

Arboretum Site

[Photo: The site of the future WSU Arboretum and Botanical Gardens covers about 95 acres on the edge of the WSU campus and has a small, naturalized forest, pond, and stream (background) that serves as a wildlife sanctuary.]

We hope to have a final design and conceptual master plan for the arboretum completed by spring, 2009. You are welcome to contribute to this visioning process by attending one of the planning events that will be announced, or by simply submitting your thoughts and ideas to the arboretum implementation committee. With the help and dedication of many people, each working to take a small step along the way, we will be able to grow a beautiful arboretum and botanical gardens for future generations.

Click on the following link to see a larger image of the current 2008 Pullman Campus Master Plan Draft (1.4 mb) which shows the future arboretum site in green in the lower right hand part of the map.

Golden and Diamond Grad Tour of Arboretum Site

WSU Alumni in Ensminger Pavilion

[Photo: Ralph Calvalieri, Assoc. Director and Dean, Agricultural Research Center, and Caroline Troy, Senior Director of Development, welcome the Golden and Diamond Grads to the reunion luncheon held in Ensminger Pavilion.]

Although the proposed WSU Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is not yet open for business and visitation by the public, we’ve already begun giving a few tours of the future arboretum site. WSU alumni attending the Golden and Diamond Grad Reunion at WSU (classes of 1948 and 1958) were given a presentation about the new arboretum by Rod Sayler, Assoc. Professor, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, during a luncheon at Ensminger Pavilion.

The WSU alumns also heard a talk about WSU’s famous bear research program by Lynne Nelson, Associate Professor of Cardiology in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. Dr. Nelson is conducting studies of cardiac function in hibernating bears to better understand cardiac failure and function in non-hiberating species. The WSU Bear Center will be part of the proposed new Wildlife Center that is anticipated to be part of the new arboretum.

Professor Charles T Robbins

[Photo: WSU alumni were able to talk to Dr. Charles T. Robbins, Director of the WSU Bear Education, Research, and Conservation Center and ask questions about grizzly bear behavior and ecology.]

After the luncheon, the alumni were given a tour of new campus developments and stopped by the WSU Bear Education, Research, and Conservation Center, which is located adjacent to the new arboretum site. On the way to the Bear Center, the tour bus circled through campus to see the new expansion of Martin Stadium, biotechnology science buildings, student recreation center, and the new Palouse Ridge Golf Club. Many were amazed to see how much the campus has changed and grown.

Grizzly Bear in Pen

[Photo: WSU alumni were able to get close, but not too close, to observe grizzly bears after they returned from exercising and feeding in their large outdoor exercise compound on a grassy hillside.]

At the Bear Center, WSU alums were able to see part of the future arboretum landscape and spend a few minutes talking with Dr. Charles T. Robbins, Director of the Bear Center. And everyone was able to get up close and personal with a grizzly bear, at least with a chain link barrier! The Bear Center is one of the most popular visitor attractions at Washington State University.

Earth Day Celebration 2008

Truck Loaded with Trees

[Photo: Several hundred ponderosa pine trees were loaded into trucks, hauled to the naturalized forest in the WSU Arboretum, and planted by volunteers to help celebrate Earth Day 2008 at Washington State University.]

About 20 student and community volunteers met at the site of the future WSU Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on April 22, 2008, to help celebrate Earth Day at Washington State University by planting several hundred ponderosa pine trees in the arboretum forest. The trees were grown in containers at the nursery at the E.H. Steffen Center adjacent to the arboretum for several years and were in urgent need of planting.

Graduate Students

[Photo: Graduate students (L-R) Scott Leach, Erim Gomez, and Len Zeoli volunteered to help organize the Earth Day event and fueled up on a hearty breakfast of chocolate doughnuts before planting trees.]

The ponderosa pines were mixed into the existing naturalized forest on the west edge of the arboretum. This 70-year-old experimental forest began as a series of test tree and shrub growth plots by the USDA Plant Materials Center, but has become naturalized over the years. This naturalized forest has been proposed to become a wildlife sanctuary in the future arboretum and will contain natural trails, a bird observatory, and a pond. The forest will also become home to collections of native plants that are restored in habitats within the forest.

Volunteers Planting Trees

[Photo: Student and community volunteers helped plant several hundred trees in the Arboretum forest in celebration of Earth Day 2008 at Washington State University.]

We would like to thank all of the volunteers who came out and spent a few hours working in the arboretum. It was a beautiful day and the future forest in the arboretum will be all the more beautiful because of their work.

Campus Display Garden Matures

One of the landscaping and horticultural projects now underway on the Pullman campus is a new Display Garden under construction by students in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. Arising from the cement foundation of two old greenhouses, the display garden is becoming a beautiful addition to campus green space adjacent to the Lighty Student Services and French Administration building.

If you haven’t walked by the display garden since spring, when students began major construction, you should compare what you see now with the early construction photos below. You’ll be quite surprised. The display garden now provides campus residents and visitors with a place to relax and enjoy the horticultural landscaping that will be developed over several years.

Phil Waite

[Photos: WSU faculty member, Phil Waite, Assoc. Professor, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, works with students in classes on the design and construction of the built environment. Students began major construction of the display garden in spring, 2008. The display garden is located next to the Lighty Student Services Building.]

Display Garden Construction