Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, Mo., has been named a level-II arboretum by ArbNet, the international accrediting agency. The ranking is considered a prestigious indicator of the size and quality of the tree collection, its care and education programs. There are only 74 level-II arboretums internationally and only two in St. Louis.
First opened to the public in 1872, Tower Grove Park is home to a large and diverse mature urban forest displayed across 289 acres. A tree inventory was completed in 2016, determining that the Park currently has 6,820 trees. There are 225 species and 58 subspecies making up a total of 283 confirmed taxa (or “type” in Layman’s terms). Every tree is digitally labeled on a GPS-enabled interactive map viewable on the Park’s responsive website towergrovepark.org. Tower Grove Park also has approximately 2,000 woody shrubs of over 100 species that are currently being inventoried.
Of special note in the Tower Grove Park tree collection are:
- The majestic “Hundred Year” Oak Grove in the northwest quadrant of the Park, home to a variety of oaks, some more than 13 feet in circumference.
- Stands of less usual osage-orange (Maclura pomifera) around the Park, with their oversized knobby green fruits. There is a dramatically curved specimen near the Music Stand. These are some of the oldest trees in the park.
- The Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) “cathedral” in the Cypress Ellipse on Main Drive.
- A variety of interesting Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) being carefully protected from Emerald Ash Borer.
- The children’s favorite “Keebler Elves Tree”—an elderly Catalpa along South Drive that is largely hollowed out.
- Missouri State Champion trees Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) and bigtooth aspen (Populus tremuloides).
The collection is maintained by a team of three full-time arborists, led by Arboriculture Supervisor Andy Berg, who is an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Board Certified Master Arborist. The Park’s Executive Director, Bill Reininger, is also an ISA Certified Arborist, as is William Rein, the director of operations and special projects.
“Tower Grove Park was founded by Henry Shaw, a man who loved trees and planted thousands during his lifetime,” says Bill Reininger. “We are delighted to have achieved this important distinction as a level-II arboretum. As we look forward to the Park’s 150th anniversary in 2020, we hope to steward this precious and historic resource, our urban forest, for decades to come.”
Tower Grove Park is one of only seven National Historic Landmark parks in the country, along with New York Central Park and Boston Common. Famed for its rare Victorian park pavilions—the largest such collection in the world—Tower Grove Park is also an accredited level-II arboretum with a mature urban forest of nearly 7,000 trees representing 283 taxa (types). Tower Grove Park is the second largest park in St. Louis and is visited annually by 2.5 million people. The Park hosts diverse events and activities throughout the year. Visit the Park’s website, towergrovepark.org, to learn more. M
(Photo Courtesy of Tower Grove Park; Kari R. Frey, FREYtography)