COLUMBUS, Ohio — Athletics and horticulture share a long history at Ohio State University — well over 100 years — yet few may realize how closely the two are linked together.
The university's football stadium, the Horseshoe, becomes a classroom each year for ornamental science students; horticulturists turn turfgrass knowledge into workshops for coaching staff; and some of Chadwick Arboretum's biggest fans are spectators of basketball, softball and field hockey.
That relationship was all the more evident during Ohio State's Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens Arbor Day event on April 29 in Columbus, Ohio, where a botanical collection of North American native buckeyes (genus Aesculus) was dedicated in honor of the university's Director of Athletics, Andy Geiger, who is retiring after 11 years of service.
The collection not only celebrates the prominence of the Ohio buckeye as the state tree and the university's beloved mascot, but it also points to the important intertwining of two of Ohio State's long-standing traditions.
"Our athletic facilities and Chadwick Arboretum, they are both classrooms. They are in the same business — to make society better — and to share it in the way that we do has been a real joy," said Geiger, addressing a crowd of about 100 Columbus residents and university faculty, staff and students, during the event.
The five Buckeye species: Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra), yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava), red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), autumn splendor buckeye (Aesculus x arnoldiana), and bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) now take their place among 1,000 other trees at Chadwick Arboretum, representing over 120 species that grow throughout Ohio.
The site on the northwest corners of Lane Avenue and Fred Taylor Drive, an area shared by Jerome Schottenstein Center and Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Guest speaker Rich Pearson, a horticulturist for Cox Arboretum and Gardens Metro Park in Dayton, Ohio, shared his 12 years of Ohio State experiences of helping to transform Chadwick Arboretum from 2.5 acres into the 60 acres it is today. He also emphasized the importance that such facilities have for those who visit them.
"Arboretums are important because they support education, they help industry educate potential clients, they provide greenspace for those needing a place to unwind, and they serve a research purpose. They are the plant zoos of tomorrow," said Pearson. "This arboretum is a testament to the people who would see the future. Here we are and it is just magnificent."
The Chadwick Arboretum site began development in 1997 after a local organization expressed interest in planting 1,000 trees on campus to celebrate the state's bicentennial. The trees are representative of the four main ecological areas of Ohio: glaciated plateau, hill country, lake plains and till plains. Examples of tree species planted include red maple, white ash, oak, sassafras, black walnut, wild black cherry, shagbark, black willow, butternut, persimmon, and eastern redbud.
Chadwick Arboretum is part of the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The arboretum and accompanying Learning Gardens are celebrating its 25th year. This is Ohio's 133rd Arbor Day observation.