Arboretum teaches visitors about its trees

New plaques part of effort to revive park in Elkridge

April 25, 2004|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Jim Rose gave a tree tour as he walked the perimeter of Harwood Neighborhood Park in Elkridge.

On the blackgum: "A woodland tree in Maryland that grows all over the place."

On the silver maple: "Not a great tree, it grows too fast and drops limbs."

On the green ash: "It's apparently now endangered by a bug that has attacked trees in Maryland. I hope we don't lose them."

The park is the site of Rose's "arboretum without walls," a project that he developed to identify and describe trees. He figures that if people know more about their environment, they'll take more of an interest in what happens to it.

"We take existing trees and put tags and labels on them, so people walking in the park can begin to become more aware of what kinds of trees are there," said the retired computer scientist, who's designed four other arboretums at county parks. At the Harwood Neighborhood Park, plaques were placed in front of 17 trees. Each one states the tree's Latin and common names, describes the tree and includes a likeness of its leaf pattern.

Quest to be an arborist

Rose, a member of Howard County's Forest Conservancy District Board, devised the arboretum concept about five years ago, after an unsuccessful birding expedition.

"One day I was walking through the woods, and there weren't any birds, but there were all these trees," he said. "I think most people don't know about trees and their names, and I didn't know their names either."

Rose picked up a copy of The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees: Eastern Region and began his quest to become an amateur arborist.

"The whole focus of the forestry board is education," said Steve Parker, forest board chairman and tree-care supervisor with the county Department of Public Works. The board, which sponsors the arboreta, pays for the plaques and brochures that describe the project.

The Harwood project

In the Harwood Park arboretum, a plaque states: "Quercus Rubra, Red Oak, a wide elliptical leaf with seven to eleven pointed lobes which are not cut toward the center very deeply. Turns dark red or brown in the autumn."

Rose, who wrote the tree descriptions, has worked on arboreta at the county government's office complex and Centennial Park in Ellicott City, Wilde Lake Park and Jackson Pond in Columbia and Savage Park.

The Harwood Park project is Rose's first foray into a community park.

The idea was proposed by Betsy McMillion, president of the Harwood Park Neighborhood Improvement Association - which she founded in 2000 - and a member of the forest board.

Rose walked the park, and agreed to participate.

"The park is small," he said, "but it does have about a dozen varieties of trees."

Cleanup and dedication

Tucked off Woodburn Avenue, the Harwood Neighborhood Park opened in 1982. Neighbors said the work of vandals over the years - including graffiti and broken playground equipment - kept children away.

Over the past five years, McMillion said she's noticed more young families with children living in the neighborhood. As a result, she made the park a priority of the improvement association and scheduled cleanup days and other activities to revive interest in the park.

The arboretum was dedicated earlier this month at a ceremony attended by Rose, McMillion and county officials. They helped to plant a corkscrew willow tree, with twigs and leaves shaped like corkscrews.

"It's nice for the kids to have a place to come down and play," said Judy Theilman, a 35-year Harwood Park resident whose house borders the park. "It's a nice gathering place."

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