The resplendent Davis Arboretum is a striking sight of splendor that’s home to over 150 different tree species, most native to Alabama and the Southeast. The arboretum features native trees, shrubs and wildflowers of the entire southeastern United States, including a subset of different tree species native to Alabama and the Southeast. With 14 acres of beauty, the Davis Arboretum is one of Alabama’s finest attractions. A good old southern feeling and laid-back attitude is on display at the Arboretum and you’ll be welcomed by the fresh fragrant air and a comforting warm southern breeze blowing through the trees.
The Davis Arboretum was begun as a collection of native trees of the Southeastern United States. Over the years, this collection has been expanded, increasing the number of tree species, and the number of native shrubs and herbaceous plants. The Arboretum is diverse in nature, and has also established areas of native communities or habitats that represent various ecosystems in Alabama. (As the plantings and diversity have increased, so has the wildlife that has taken up residence here!)
The Davis Arboretum ultimately provides visitors with a setting for reflection and relaxation as well as a place for a nature walks. The primary purposes, however, are those of a bigger picture: the arboretum wholly focuses on conservation, education and research on ecosystem preservation and diversity. The Arboretum shows plants growing in special habitats, which exist in Alabama, including rocky hillsides, stream bottoms, pond edges, salt sprayed sand dunes, and the arboretum’s unique Black Belt Prairie and Pitcher Plant Bog. (Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that trap and digest insects and small animals.) There are eight species in the genus Sarracenia in Eastern North America; Davis has seven in its collection. The ranges of most of the pitcher plants are in the coastal plain of the Southeastern United States. They grow in sunny areas that are not shaded by trees or shrubs and that are wet most of the year like bogs and wet savannahs. The areas where they grow have acidic, nutrient-poor soils and frequent fires. The pitchers “emerge from underground stems and are actually modified leaves that hold rainwater and enzymes the plant produces to digest trapped prey.” This exhibit is one-of-a-kind and a true must-see attraction at Donald Davis Arboretum.
If you’re near the area in Alabama and have a few hours to kill, or if you’re vacationing and taking in the southeastern sights, take a day to stop by Davis to witness the beauty of the natural world. And don’t forget to take along the following Top Five Sights list with you; use it as an addendum to any materials you receive on-site!
1. The Coastal Dunes
Dunes are vegetated ridges; they form along sandy coasts where waves and wind are relatively strong, such as the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama. The Dunes here feature sea oats, Panicum grass, rosemary and more herbs and plants in the sand. The top predator of these dunes is the Eastern six-lined Race Runner, which can be frequently seen hunting on the dune. The large dunes nearest to the shore are primary, or “fore dunes.” These primary dunes are important for protection of the coast; they provide a buffer to protect inland areas from wave damage, saltwater intrusion and strong winds, allowing the development of more complex inland plant communities.
2. The Lower Stream Banks
Stream banks in Alabama are one of the most interesting, dynamic and diverse habitats to be found on the continent. Davis only represents a fraction of the possible communities that can be enjoyed. The plants that reside here must be able to endure the violent water conditions from heavy rain, as well as the common droughts of the region. The Davis lower stream area is home to a Carolina Silverbell. Under its canopy in the spring you’ll find Atamasco Lilies, May apples, native Trillium and Rhododendron species, and numerous fern species: Southern Lady fern, Sensitive fern, Netted chain fern, Christmas fern and cinnamon fern included. The banks are refreshingly cool during Auburn’s hot muggy summers. Late in the same season, a blanket of Touch-me-nots takes over with strikingly beautiful orange and yellow blooms. In the winter, the banks are accented by the meandering vines of mature Alabama Supplejack.
3. Black Belt Prairie
Along the Coastal Plain is an interesting region of soil called the Black Belt; it’s a narrow strip of land about 30 miles wide running in an arc 300 miles long from northeast Mississippi through mid-Alabama. This region contains sedimentary soil at the edge of what was once the ocean boundary. Fossils of and newer marine shells are all dug up here; feel free to dig in and take some souvenirs of the South’s beaches and wetlands.
4. The Ponds and Wetlands
Alabama’s wetland habitats are so diverse that representing them with a single stream and pond is a daunting task, and so is preserving them. Davis Arboretum has done one bang-up job doing so, however. According to them, Alabama has lost over half of its wetland acres in the last two centuries. It’s also estimated that 10 percent of the country’s freshwater flows through Alabama; thus, realizing the importance of wetlands is vital to the health of Alabama’s native ecosystems. Davis has a wandering stream with muddy, sandy and rock-bottomed portions, as well as a bog area, low flood plain, high flood banks and a pond.
5. Maritime Hammock
The maritime hammock establishes itself on older inland dunes stable enough to support the growth of trees. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as the “hardwood hammock.” It is the third environment from the coast after the primary dunes and the coastal strand. The plants that live here must endure salt spray carried by unending winds, as well as quick draining soils. This results in more dwarfed growth patterns closer to the sea and a more normal growth pattern as distance from the water increases.
The Davis Arboretum is located on the campus of Auburn University in Auburn at 241 South College Street. Should you need information on group tours, hours, or specific exhibits and attractions, for more information call 334.844.5770.
241 South College Street
Auburn, AL 36830