University of Southern Maine Arboretum
The Hill (Area A)
Our walking tour of the USM Campus Arboretum begins in the “original campus” area. Perches atop a rolling slope known to students, alumni, and the community as “The Hill,” Corthell Hall—one of the oldest buildings on campus—stands as a symbol of the traditional campus center. Erected in 1878, Corthell was part of Gorham Normal School for almost 70 years, and housed classrooms and administrative offices. Today, the building serves as the headquarters for USM’s School of Music and houses some administrative offices. Standing as a spectacular sentries, on either side of the Corthell’s main entrance, are Sourwood trees (Oxydendrum arboretum) (A-1), an early effort by campus arborists to promote species diversity. This Sourwood is listed on Maine’s Register of Big Trees as the largest Sourwood in the state.
Continuing across the footpath located directly in front of Corthell is a Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladusdioicus) (A-2). In contrast with the aged, mature Sourwood, this young Kentucky Coffeetree was one of the first plantings undertaken following the ice storm. Characteristics of the mature Kentucky Coffeetree are its purplish-brown seedpods that persist through the winter. Continuing along the path is a Toba Hawthorn (Crataegus x mordenensis ‘Boom’) (A-3), a China Snow Lilac (Syringaapekinensis) (A-4), a Leonard Messel Magnolia (Magnolia loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’) (A-5), and a Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringe reticulate) (A-6). The Japanese Tree Lilac’s white, fragrant flowers bloom in June almost a month after common lilacs have gone by. Hardy and easy to care for, the Japanese Tree Lilac reaches a height of 20-30 feet and its habit becomes more graceful and flowering with maturity.
Moving to the northwest away from the Japanese Lilac, walkers can cross the path to encounter a Seven-son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides Rehd.) (A-30) and a Veitch Fir (Abiesveitchii) (A-7), near the president’s house. The Seven-son, which flowers late in the summer season generally keeps its blossoms until September and attracts butterflies. Continuing towards Campus Avenue is Professor Sprenger Malus (Malus sp. ‘Professor Sprenger’) (A-8). This extremely disease-resistant and vigorous tree was specifically chosen to continue the University efforts in integrated pest management. In front of the Professor Sprenger Malus stands a clump form of a Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegusviridis ‘Winter King’) (A-9), one of the most outstanding examples of hawthorn used for landscaping purposes mainly due to its gracefully rounded habit and showy red persistent fruit.
Walking back toward Corthell Hall to journey south down the hill toward College Avenue, the President’s House is located on the right. The president’s House was constructed in 1906, and first lived in by the second principal of the Gorham Normal School, Walter Russell. In front of the President’s House are some very ages native Eastern Larches (Larixlaricina). Placed next to them is a youthful relative, the Japanese Larch (Larixkaempferi) (A-10). The Japanese larch is more resistant to canker than its native cousin, and grows taller (some may reach 150 feet). Planting a youthful Japanese Larch along side elder eastern Larches is an opportunity to show Arboretum visitors the importance of diversity as a defense against disease, while demonstrating the similarities and differences between ornamental non-invasive and native plantings. Turning to walk parallel to College Avenue toward the Rockery (A-19) is an example of a native Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) (A-11), one of four different native oak species encountered on the walking tour. This particular oak species is one of the last to turn color in the fall.
At the base of the hill, parallel with the southeast corner of the President’s House, stands a ‘Covey’ Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’) (A-12). Marginally hardy in this growing area, the weeping habit of this tree makes it noticeable in all seasons. Its flowers appear before the leaves in April and are rosy pink with lavender tinge. The ‘Covey’ is a cultivar of an Eastern Redbud tree, which is native to the central/southeastern portion of theUnited States.
Rounding the bottom of the hill, visitors can view the USMArtGallery, constructed in 1821 as a free meetinghouse for the town of Gorham. This building was used as the GorhamTown Halluntil 1961, when lack of space necessitated a move to larger facilities. The building was turned over to the University at this point, and after a failed attempt to convert the building into a chapel, it became home for a new art gallery. In front of this building, a native mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) (A-15) and American Linden (Tilia Americana) (A-16) stand as towering silent observers of the various uses in the Art Gallery’s history.
Continuing across the College Avenue entrance, viewers will witness the Louisa Malus (Malus Mill. Sp. ‘Louisa’) (A-29), which can be recognized by its very broad, weeping habit and amber-colored fruit. Also present is a Green Pillar Oak (Quercus palustris ‘Green Pillar’) (A-27) and a Concolor Fir (Abies concolor) (A-28). This particular fir is slightly more tolerant of city conditions that other firs, and can thrive in thin, rocky soils.
Back across the road, nearer to College Avenue is a Majesty Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum ‘Majesty’) (A-13) and a Canaan Fir (Abies balsamea ‘Phanerolpis’) (A-17). The Majesty can withstand temperatures as low as -38˚F. Turning to the north and walking past the Rockery to face the grove of large hardwood trees, a towering mature Tuliptree (Liridodendron tulipifera) (A-18) can be viewed. Also known as Yellow Poplar, the Tuliptree is the largest deciduous tree on the east coast, with recorded heights of 150 feet. The tree is named for its yellowish-green tulip shaped flowers, which do not appear until long after leaf-out. Just across the path from the Tuliptree is a native mature White Ash (Fraxinus Americana) (A-14).
The next landmark encountered in the walking tour is the Rockery (A-19). Originally constructed in 1878 with Corthell Hall, the Rockery underwent a major overhaul in May 2001 thanks to a generous contribution from the Gorham State Teachers College Class of 1951 on the occasion of their 50-year reunion. A mountain vegetation theme is evident in the Rockery’s planting-with 3 varieties of mountain laurel, 2 varieties of hydrangea, bird’s nest spruce, mountain hemlock, dwarf blueberry plants, English rhododendrons, harlequin euonymus, and leucothoe. The Rockery nicely simulates a diverse mountain landscape, and is a spectacular greeting to all those who traverse the carriage path up the hill.
Close to the southeastern corner of the Rockery is an example of a Weeping Elm (Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’) (A-20), a tree valued for its flowing habit and relative resistance to Dutch elm disease (a tree pathogen that has all but eliminated a large proportion of native American elms). Back toward College Avenue near the Weeping Elm is a Magyar Gingko (Ginkgo biloba ‘Magyar’) (A-21). The Magyar was chosen for its feathery leaves; additionally, its habit is more upright when compared with its relative Maidenhair tree, which can be viewed later in the walking tour.
Heading toward College Avenue is a dark American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Nigra’) (A-22). Although this tree has been described as “terrifically ugly” in the winter months, it can thrive in rocky terrain and low temperatures. Crossing the carriage path entrance, there is an example of a Norway Spruce (Picea abies) (A-23). Starting up the carriage path, a Bloodgood London Planetree (platanus x acerifolia ‘Bloodgood’) (A-24) can be found. This particular tree does well against drought and heat, but will not tolerate some ozone levels.
Further east, a row of Littleleaf, or Fairview Linden lines the footpath traversing the hill to Robie–Andrews Hall. These Littleleaf Lindens (Tilia cordata ‘Fairview’) (A-25) were among the very first trees to be planted following the ice and windstorm damage of 1998. Walking along the path in late June, walkers can smell the yellowish, fragrant flowers, and bask in the lovely shade the trees provide.
Heading toward the USM shrubbery, walkers can view a European Alder (Alnus glutinosa) (A-26). Before the planting of this tree, and the adjoining shrubbery, this section of the hill was historically employed by instructors as a place for beginning ski lessons. This area still serves as a popular sledding destination for local families.Start Slideshow