Heiser Circle Tree Walk

bartram portraitThe John Bartram Arboretum is named in honor of the Quaker, John Bartram (1699-1777) who is sometimes referred to as the “first American botanist.” He traveled throughout the colonies collecting and cataloging plants. Many were exported to Europe in “Bartram’s Boxes.” Many of the trees in the Arboretum were listed in his 1783 Bartram’s Broadside (an ephemeral message printed on one side of a sheet of paper) . Trees listed in the Broadside are shown in bold type. Explore a portion of the Arboretum adjacent to the Heiser Community Center. Some trees have many names. Scientific or binomial names (genus, species) are given per the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (sic) where possible. Click here to obtain the downloadable pdf version with links to tree data. Bold fonts identify trees on the wal included in Bartram's Broadside. Blue underlined text denotes links to web sites. Tree locations are accurate, but may be difficult to see or absent from the spring 2023 aerial map of Lorain County.

Turn right after leaving the Heiser Community Center to start the walk.

1. The walk begins in the southeast corner of the Courtyard Garden at the Franklin tree (Franklania altahama) planted in the fall of 2020. Bartram described it as a "rare and elegant flowering shrub." A drawing is featured in the adjacent portrait of Bartram. The Franklin tree is difficult to cultivate with seeds taking 12-14 months to mature. Leaves are 4-6 inches long and have smooth edges. In the fall they are red. It is extinct in the wild. A second Franklin tree can be seen out of the windows between the entrance and the Library.

2. Continue on the walkway in front of Heiser and you will see several Red Maples (Acer rubrum) also known as the water, swamp, or soft maple. The U.S. Forest service ranks it as the most abundant deciduous tree in North America. It is the most common tree in the Arboretum. It derives its name from the brilliant scarlet-red color of the leaves in the autumn. The leaves grow on opposite sides of the twigs and are light green on the top and bluish-green or even hairy on the underside. The leaf stalks are reddish and about 4 inches long. The leaves have 3-5 lobes with a serrated edge. Although its sap can be used to produce maple syrup, the sugar maple (A. saccharum) and the black maple (A. nigrum) are preferred.

3. Several Honey Locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos) are growing close to the building. The thorns found on wild stock, have been bred out but occasionally adorn the trunk and branches. Like others in the legume family they may host root-dwelling bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen and fertilize the soil. The leaves of trees help distinguish one species from others. Locusts have feathery or pinnate-compound leaves. Compare these with the leaves of other trees on the walk. Long twisted pods containing seeds and edible pulp were used by Native Americans as a sweetening agent. Hence their name.

4. A Japanese White Birch (Betula platyphylla) is just outside of the windows of the craft room. The exfoliating or peeling white bark gives character to these trees that often grow in clusters.

5. A Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana var tortuosa) is growing on the shore of Center Pond. Its branches and leaves are all twisted. Birds, particularly red winged blackbirds, frequently perch on the dead branches at the top.

6. Two large Colorado Blue Spruces (Picea pungens) are located between the path and the apartments. The blue-tinge of new growth at the tips of the branches is due to a waxy cuticle that is responsible for their name.

7. An Austrian or Black Pine (Pinus nigra) is growing at the corner of the apartments. This airy species is one of the most common trees on the Kendal Campus. Many are in poor condition and dying. Follow the covered walkway to the right of the garage to where it turns to the left.

8. A cluster of River Birches (Betula nigra) is growing right next to Farmers Pond. These heat-tolerant trees, native to Eastern United States, are also plentiful on the Campus and have reddish exfoliating bark that darkens as the tree matures. Multiple trunks are common.

9. Proceed along the walk to a group of three large Norway Spruces (Picea abies). Note the difference in the color of the new versus old growth. The branchlets hang downward, the needles grow singly, and the cones are the largest of all of the spruces. Cones may reach seven inches in length. They are often used as Christmas trees.

10. A Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra syn. Q. borealis) is growing just before the walkway turns to the left. It is a member of a large genus with many species. The distinctive bark has many ridges with what look like shiny stripes down the middle. The leaves have between 7 and 9 lobes and end with long pointed teeth characteristic of the red oak section of the genus. The leaf ends of the white oak section are rounded. A slight detour from the circle is worthwhile. Cross the Troll Bridge.

11. A Crabapple (Malus species) is growing up against the building just past the walkway to the right of the path. The crown is dense with many twigs. Blossoms in the spring make it a popular tree. The fruit is sour due to a high malic acid content which is linked to the name of the species. Tannins lend a bitterness to the fruits, or pomes, which contain pectin and can be used to make jelly. They are usually not eaten, except by birds.

12. A European Beech (Fagus sylvatica "Tricolor") sapling is at the end of the walkway. It is one of many commemorative trees on the Campus. It has purple leaves in the spring and unobtrusive catkins that produce beech nuts enclosed by a spiny case. They are edible and a favorite of wildlife.

13. Behind it is a beautiful Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). It is a so-called “living fossil” because it is the only remaining species in this genus. This deciduous conifer is one of three genera known collectively as redwoods (the others are Sequoia sempervirens, the coast redwood, and the majestic Sequoiadendron giganteum, the giant sequoia of California).

Turn left and walk past four cottages and veer left to return to Heiser Circle. If you are adventurous use the ferry to cross to the island (Charon will not collect a toll).

14. On the island look for the columnar Shawnee Brave Bald Cyprus (Taxodium distichum 'Mickelson'). Native to the Midwest, it has many alternate names and grows well under varied conditions. It is closely related to the Dawn Redwood. Its needles turn a russet-red color in the fall and fall off to be replaced by lacy new foliage in the spring .

15. On the southern end of the island you will find a Wildfire Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’) or sour gum sapling hiding among nearby plants. In the spring its new leaves are bright red. They mature to a dark, glossy green. In the fall the leaves put on quite a display as they turn to colors that range from yellow-orange to purple-red.

Return to the “mainland.”

16. A Red Horsechestnut (Aesculus x carnea), known by other names including the firecracker plant, stands near the faux stone at the top of the cascade. It is native to Eastern and Southern US and has 5 leaflets per leaf. Red flowers in the spring attract hummingbirds and bees. The Ohio Buckeye, the state tree, is A. glabra.

17. A group of Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris) stands just to the west. The distinctive canopy has branches that point upward at the top, at right angles at mid-tree, and droop down at the bottom. Leaves have between five and seven lobes with spiny teeth on the ends, typical of red oaks.

18. Across the road is a tall Fastigiate or Columnar Oak whose exact origin is uncertain (Quercus sp.). It is in the red section of the quercus genus.

19. On the north side of the Education Building there is a Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), also known as a Burr Oak. Its acorns are the largest of any North American oak. The cup has overlapping scales that cover much of the acorn. The tree honors the contributions to the Arboretum made by Alan Siewert from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources.

20. Finally, we arrive at a Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) donated by the Arboretum Committee in the fall of 2018 to recognize the 25th anniversary of the founding of Kendal at Oberlin. This is a fitting end to this walk as it is the signature tree of the John Bartram Arboretum at Kendal at Oberlin.