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Walk Through the Arboretum


A tree in the Core Arboretum in fall.


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Seventy years ago, a swath of farmland on a hillside became the Core Arboretum. Beside the Monongahela River, with a rail-trail running through it, the tree sanctuary is made up of 91 acres. Inside, there is a spot for you. On a footbridge above a ravine, you could see the winding of a brook under blossoms.

Or in the wooden amphitheater, you can sit in a chapel of one as the wind rustles the leafless trees in anticipation of spring. It is kept up by its director Zach Fowler who gives tours and leads more than 500 volunteers in upkeep. Named for Earl Core, a longtime West Virginia University botanist, the arboretum is a backdrop for visitors to get to know the most bewitching aspect of the state: its landscape. So next time you’re in town, take along a packed lunch and offer gratitude to the people who kept this bit of nature right on campus.

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Zach Fowler

ZACH FOWLER Core Arboretum and Clinical Assistant Professor 

PICK: Wildflowers

"The arboretum has a spectacular display of spring ephemeral wildflowers each spring. The arboretum is best known for its spectacular displays of Virginia bluebell, spring beauty, bloodroot, trillium, trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches and dwarf larkspur. If you want to see them, it is best to visit in early to mid-April. The arboretum hosts free public spring wildflower walks each spring to share the beauty with people and teach them more about these plants.

PICK: Olden Trees

The arboretum has some huge oak trees that are probably well over 200 years old. One of the most notable is a large red oak at the bottom of the Service Road, near where it meets the Taylor Trail. The tallest measured silver maple trees in the state grow in the arboretum, near the wet area between the Nuttall Trail and the Granville Island Trail in the Monongahela River floodplain. These silver maple trees are over 115 feet tall!

PICK: A Stump's Tale

The arboretum had the third-largest chinquapin oak tree in the world until 2000, when it finally died. This oak was around 600 years old, meaning that it sprouted around the time that Christopher Columbus was setting out on his voyage then grew on the hill that is now in the arboretum. The huge, hollow stump is still present, near the intersection of the Sheldon Trail and the Nuttall Trail. 

PICK: Pawpaws

We have lots of pawpaw trees in the arboretum. Pawpaws are native-growing trees that produce delicious, tropical-flavored fruit in fall. We host pawpaw parties every fall at the arboretum to celebrate and share this fruit. In 2017, more than 300 people attended one of three pawpaw parties. Many people who grew up surrounded by pawpaws each fall have tasted one for the first time at one of our parties!"