KC Hosts Arbor Day Celebrations

May 19, 2014

Kaskaskia College Hosts Arbor Day Celebrations

In keeping with its tradition of being named a Tree Campus USA winner for the fourth consecutive year, Kaskaskia College celebrated Arbor Day with events on the Vandalia campus on Wednesday, May 7 and on the Main campus on Friday, May 9. Each event featured a guest speaker, ceremonial tree dedications, and a reception.

The celebrations featured guest speakers Kent Boyles in Vandalia and Alex Eade on the Main campus. Each speaker focused on the importance of trees in very different and informative ways.

Kent Boyles is District Wildlife Biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, stationed at the Coffeen Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in Montgomery County. Kent is a 1982 graduate of Kaskaskia College and an Eastern Illinois University graduate with degrees in Botany and Environmental Biology and a Master’s degree in Botany. He teaches Environmental Biology classes for the College and volunteers as a Reading Link tutor.

Kent began his presentation by challenging the attendees to name a tree or shrub native to the state of Illinois. With a few hints and a little coaxing, everyone was able to name a native species. Kent used this ice-breaking discussion to launch into a presentation on invasive arboreal species and the harm they do to Illinois woodlands.

Kent focused on the black locust tree and the bush honeysuckle shrub as widespread invasive species that are threatening the natural diversity of our wild spaces, and the wildlife species that depend on that diversity. These species, and many other invasives, outcompete native plants through their allelopathic attacks. In allelopathy, a tree or shrub secretes a hormone through its roots that inhibits the sprouting of seedlings of other species. This results in large stands of the single species that spread to take over more and more territory.

Along with warning the attendees of the dangers of introduced species to the natural ecosystem, Kent also distributed a handout that names a number of beneficial, native species of shrubs, along with their growing requirements, characteristics, and benefits to wildlife. He urged everyone to plant native species and to eradicate invasive plants whenever possible.

Following Kent’s presentation, the ceremony moved outdoors, where a number of new shrubs and trees were added to the Kaskaskia College Arboretum on the Vandalia campus.

On Friday, May 9, Alex Eade spoke to a group gathered in the Lifelong Learning Center on KC’s Main campus. Alex is a 2007 graduate of Kaskaskia College. He transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where he earned his Bachelor degree in Landscape Design Horticulture and his Master’s degree with a focus on Forest Hydrology.

Alex prepared a presentation on the top ten benefits of trees. These include: Trees as landmarks and seasonal markers; food and shelter for humans and animals; temperature control; mental health benefits of trees; reduced crime and violence in areas with trees and greenspace; carbon sequestration; job creation; pollution and flood prevention; and cleaning of the air.

Also, as part of the Arbor Day celebration, children from the KC Child Care Center sang songs entitled “Apple Tree” and “I’m a Little Pinecone.”

Following the presentation, a newly planted tree was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Dale Bassett, longtime KC Vice-president of Instruction.

The KC Arboretum currently features 280 trees and shrubs. Kaskaskia College allows individuals and organizations to purchase one of nine different varieties of tree for $100, or a shrub for $50. You may pick the placement of your tree within the Main or Vandalia Campuses or the Salem Education Center. A permanent marker indicating the species and common name of the tree, along with the donor and person or group honored will be placed at the tree’s location. Special varieties or larger specimen trees may be purchased for a higher price. For more information on Kaskaskia College, its Arboretum, or its designation as a Tree Campus USA, please visit www.kaskaskia.edu/campus/arboretum.