Treasured DelVal Arboretum at Risk of Decline

By Emma Menzel / One Health Editor

Encompassing 40 acres of the Delaware Valley University campus, the Henry Schmieder Arboretum symbolizes the passion for nature that students, faculty, and visitors share. However, some people notice that these important specimens’ health is declining.

Henry Schmieder, the arboretum’s namesake, was a faculty member at DelVal in the mid-1900s who was in the process of cataloging and expanding the arboretum at the time of his death. It is recognized as a member of the Greater Philadelphia Gardens and the American Public Gardens Association.

Walking through the DelVal campus, it’s easy to see the beauty in the assortment of trees the University has collected: vibrant maples, towering oaks, and fragrant magnolias. But if someone looks a little closer, they will see the extent to which each specimen is struggling. Improper care by an external landscaping company and budget cuts are harming this integral part of the DelVal campus and students and faculty are starting to find solutions. Integrating an arboretum into the campus was part of founder Joseph Krauskopf’s original plans for the National Farm School in 1896, but it was not officially recognized until 1966.

Many courses at DelVal utilize the variety of plants on campus as a cornerstone of their education. Labs for classes such as Woody Plant Identification, Dendrology, and Ecology explore the grounds and learn how to correctly identify flora in order to adequately prepare students for a career in nature. Dr. Mingwang Liu, a plant science and landscape architecture professor at DelVal, leads the tree identification courses.

Throughout the collection, there is a mix of both native and non-native species. These differing species all require individualized care and thorough knowledge of their needs. Within recent years, the care of the arboretum and its gardens has been outsourced to an external company called Independence Landscaping, according to Dr. Liu.

“Unfortunately the arboretum is deteriorating rapidly due to the loss of many plant specimens, gardens, personnel, and equipment. It is not managed as an arboretum of plant collections. The campus lost many canopy trees without replacements”

Dr. Liu

According to the Delaware Valley University official website, the arboretum is designed to be a “core resource and center for education across teaching disciplines.” Still, all of the intentions are falling victim to the lack of resources allocated to the care of these trees.

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