If you are familiar with the John C. Gifford Arboretum, chances are you’ve either slaved away too long in a physics or chemistry lab, or you’ve strolled out there for a late night hook-up. But the Arboretum has more to offer than a dark secluded corner or a break from crunching data.
Located on the northwest side of campus, adjacent to the Knight Physics building, University of Miami’s Arboretum was planted in 1947 and named after Gifford, a former professor of tropical forestry. The garden now boasts more than 400 species of plants. Many of the native species attract local birds and insects.
“It’s a nice break when you’re studying hard,” said Steve Pearson, the newly appointed Arboretum director. “The Arboretum is a very peaceful, beautiful place. Communing with nature is very relaxing and it’s a healthy, beautiful thing to do.”
And the Arboretum is not filled with typical native plants. The Maya Cocoa Garden has trees like the Maya Popcorn tree and the Ice Cream Bean tree, whose names are enough to make you hungry.
If you are actually hungry though, the Arboretum is filled with edible plants, like white and black sapote, dragonfruit and key limes. Pearson warns visitors not to eat anything unless they are completely sure of what the plant is, or they have a guide with them.
Over the years, the Arboretum has survived multiple attempts to remove the plants for construction. Most recently, the Coral Gables Commission voted in favor of creating a road through campus to ease traffic on San Amaro Drive. The plans, however, have been postponed indefinitely.
“It’s my hope that we’ve put the parking issue to bed forever,” Pearson said.
The Friends of the Arboretum host monthly meetings and feature guest lecturers. In December, they host their annual Arboretum picnic.
For more information, visit bio.miami.edu/arboretum or call 305-284-3973.