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Come out and play at the Arboretum

March 24, 2010

Snirts (those disgusting piles of snow and dirt) have receded, birds are returning from the south, backyard grills are fired up and people are busting out of their four walls for a rejuvenating, smidgen of warmer weather. What better place to get re-acquainted with Mother Nature than at the Arboretum? There’s no excuse not to. This jewel right in the middle of the city is close at hand; the Arboretum entrance near Vilas Park is a mere 4,000 feet or so (as the crow flies) from the campus welcome center on Park Street.

The Arboretum’s 1,260 acres is a living laboratory with the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world. Tallgrass prairies, savannas, several forest types, wetlands, flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection are just part of the collections.

Each year, more than 650,000 people visit to get away from civilization for a few hours. While there, they can hike more than 20 miles of trails, bird watch, draw, ski and take photographs. Some visitors don’t stray far from the visitor center because they find lots to see and do there. The center dispenses maps and advice on things to see and has a library, bookstore and gift shop (pick up some Arboretum Blend coffee, wood ornaments or notecards), an art gallery, a theater, and, very important, bathrooms. The 4-acre garden at the visitor center features some 500 plants native to Wisconsin. The Visitor Center is closest to the Seminole Highway entrance to the Arboretum, but you can reach the center from either entrance.

Arboretum staff organize educational events and programs year-round and this weekend (March 27–28) is packed with special things to do that will shake off your winter mustiness.

From 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, March 27, join a group of volunteers to work on the core area and Curtis Prairie. While working to improve the arboretum, volunteers learn about prairies and savannas. Tools and training are provided, and groups are welcome with advance notice. Meet at the front steps of the Visitor Center.

A piece of artwork, featuring wildlife themes shaped in rusted-metal, marks a foot path to the Curtis Prairie at the UW Arboretum.

Photo: Jeff Miller

That same day, from 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., a class, All About Bluebirds, will take students on a walk along the Arboretum’s 20-year-old bluebird trail in Longenecker Gardens as they learn about the fascinating life of the bluebird, bluebird behavior, the reasons for bluebird decline and restoration efforts for the bird. The cost is $13.50 general, $12 for members of Friends of the Arboretum. Other upcoming classes include The Mystery of Migration and Drawing, and Painting Plants.

That evening, from 6:30–8 p.m., a night walk with a naturalist will explore wildlife rites of spring on a March evening.

Activities on Sunday, March 28, begin with a family event, “Living With Wild Things, Learning From Aldo Leopold,” 12:30–4 p.m. Attendees will learn about Leopold’s love of wild things and his efforts to restore the land. A naturalist will lead a walk from 1:30–2:30 p.m.

Another nature walk is planned for 1–2:30 p.m. It will focus on early migrating birds and early nesters among yearlong residents.

From 2–3:30 p.m. at the Visitor Center, meet Steven J. Apfelbaum, author of the widely acclaimed book “Nature’s Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm.” Apfelbaum will read from his book, sign copies and answer questions.

For more information on the Arboretum and these events, visit or call 263-7888.

Tags: arboretum, events