Mesa Community College (MCC) is the first ArbNet Level I accredited arboretum in Arizona dedicated to a collection of trees, shrubs and other woody plants. The collection was designated by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program, an entity that sets industry standards for the development for tree-focused gardens. “MCC’s entire campus is a living laboratory,” Peter Conden, director of MCC landscape horticulture program, said. “The horticulture students, the agriculture students, the biology student, art students, photography, even mathematics, they [instructors] will take their students out into the beautiful campus and study these trees.” “They can use these trees to highlight many different topics in their respective courses,” he added. In order for MCC to have gained the arboretum status it had to go through a process that included accounting for every single tree, plant, and shrub on campus and mapping their locations.
MCC officials said this is what makes the designation all the more rewarding for the students.“The classes on campus have access to do research on the plants that are on campus and students have more shade to do work,” Virgil Priebe, an MCC agriculture instructor, said, “It also means we get more water when it rains with these plants and we get more carbon sequesters.” As part of the arboretum status, MCC must have a plant collection policy that includes replanting a minimum of two trees for every one that is removed.
During Arbor Day in late April and after the announcement of the arboretum designation, the MCC science department planted a Velvet Mesquite tree donated by Native Resources Int’l, a plant relocation company. The tree was taken from a construction site and brought to MCC as it’s new home.The public can visit the MCC arboretum at any time. Each tree has a special tag with an identification number and those numbers are linked to a database. Visitors can learn about each tree by accessing the information through the college website: mesacc.edu/arboretum.