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Botany class helps campus become arboretum

The amount of work done on the landscaping isn’t something lost on Belmont’s students.

Now, the campus has been officially recognized for its landscape diversity.

In a September ceremony, Belmont University was designated an arboretum by the Nashville Tree Foundation. However, there are more requirements to gaining this status than just having good-looking plants.

“Each of the properties has met the stringent requirements to be recognized an arboretum which include 75 or more named and labeled specimens or as few as 25 in unique, natural or wayside areas and a subsequent inspection by a professional forester,” said foundation president Pat Wallace at the ceremony.

This project was started in 2006 by Dr. Darlene Panvini, a botany and biology professor.

Every other fall, Panvini teaches a botany class where some of the labs involve taking leaves from trees around campus, identifying them down to the species and pressing them to be preserved. After the second year, she realized there might be more to the work than just a project. As the students began accumulating more and more data about the campus’ trees, they created a package to submit to be named an arboretum.

The work has been fairly easy and mostly done by students through the classroom, Panvini said.

“They’ve done it all. I’ve just shepherded them,” she said.

Juniors Lee McGill and Hannah Martin have been a part of this project and worked to spread awareness about it. McGill helped conduct tours of the labeled trees around campus and Martin is working on an audio tour guide of the campus similar to the systems now employed in many museums.

The botany class will help keep records of all the trees that were here at various times, although a lot of them could change. By gaining the name of arboretum, most of these trees cannot be removed.

“The ones that do get cut down, there’s an agreement that they’ll get replenished,” said McGill.

Even with the construction, agreements have been made to either replace the trees that are cut down with the same species or exchanged with cultivars, which are cultivated species that are especially created for the region it will be planted in.

Those plants will make it a bit more difficult to categorize for the records they keep, but Panvini said she endorses any native varieties that may be planted on campus. She wants students, teachers and visitors to use the labeled trees to their advantage.

“I want it used as an education tool,” she said. “It’s sad how many people don’t know the trees in their yards.”

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