Celebrating 50 years of the Arboretum

Elliot SteevesStaff Writer

The renowned Gustavus Arboretum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its inception this year. The Arboretum is a large space on campus where students can gather to experience nature, free of interference.

As part of the proceedings, the Arb will host an outdoor gathering of friends, donors, volunteers, and supporters in order to commemorate the occasion. The event will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 28.

“These specially invited guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, live music from Gusties, and a few short speeches, including a speech from President Bergman, and a speech from famed KARE 11 chief meteorologist and Gustie mom, Belinda Jensen,” Arboretum Director and Naturalist Scott Moeller said.

This will be followed by a ceremonial 50th-anniversary tree planting and dedication under a giant tent on the Arboretum grounds. 

“Because the event cannot accommodate Gustie students, we are planning some Arb events for Gusties next week, and will have lots of Arb 50th Year events this summer and next fall,” Moeller said.  

The Gustavus Arboretum’s mission is to “educate the mind, enrich the spirit, and delight in Minnesota’s national history”, the Gustavus website says. The Arboretum is a member-driven nonprofit that provides opportunities for students to grow and learn about nature in all of its forms.

It was this unique environment and mission that drew Moeller toward working in the Arb.

“I have always loved the outdoors, and I have always loved teaching, so being an Interpretive Naturalist was a good career fit for me…I was hired by Gustavus Adolphus back in 2011 to be the Arb Naturalist and Nobel Greenhouse Manager, then I was promoted to the Arb Director/Naturalist position in 2012, and have been enjoying growing the Arb and teaching Gusties ever since,” Moeller said.

The Gustavus Arboretum is a source of value for Gusties in a number of different ways. It serves as a location for all forms of recreation, such as running, biking, and hammocking, and has been a source of research and scholarship for direct use among Gusties.

“It is a place of beauty, inspiration, and harmony, and a great way to relieve stress, improve mental health, and increase wellness by communing with and reconnecting with nature. It is a great place to get away from everything and just get lost for a while, taking in the trees, woodlands, prairie, wetlands, plantlife, and wildlife,” Moeller said.

The Arboretum serves as a “front porch” for much of Gustavus’s public outreach. It features many different events over the course of the year, including occasions such as FallFest, which draws 1,000 attendees.

It also serves a practical purpose as an environmental benefit for the campus. The Arb serves as a source for snow fences, windbreaks, and stormwater retention for the college.  


The Gustavus Quarterly Magazine, in its recent edition, went into detail on the history of the Arboretum to commend the anniversary.

The Arboretum was founded in 1973, when Gustavus President Frank Barth asked Charles and Harriet Mason to plant trees around the house of the President, still located in the Arboretum. From there, in 1974, the Arboretum expanded to feature multiple trees, growing to 5,381 of 20 different varieties.

The article features an interview with President Frank Barth, who gave an interview for the 1998 issue. Barth detailed in the interview the origins of the Arboretum in protests over tree removal.

“[My wife] Marge heard about the demonstration and said to me when I arrived home, ‘Not only will we save the trees, but we also will plant many more trees in a program I have in mind,’” Barth said.

In 1998, the Arboretum was leveled by the famous tornado that swept through campus. This destroyed around 2,000 trees in the area. The subsequent rebuild meant replanting of the original trees that President Barth planted.

The Arboretum is designed to replicate the shape of Minnesota in its design. This also results in the different trees and plants being located where they are on a map of the state.

This formula also makes possible a massive level of diversity in the wildlife present in the Arboretum. The coniferous forest is home to trees such as pines and cedars, while the prairie is home to many tallgrass plants located in Southern Minnesota. There is also a woodland area of deciduous trees covering 10 acres, and a wetland ecosystem. 

The Arboretum grounds are free and open to the public during all daylight hours of the year. The Melva Lind Interpretive Center is open to the public on weekdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.