The Herbert E. Owen Native Plant Garden at Fort Lewis College has been awarded a Level 1 Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum for stellar arboreta garden practices.
The Herbert E. Owen Native Plant Garden was built in 2012 as an educational resource for the Biology Department. It is named for Herb Owen, professor of Biology at FLC from 1955 to 1978 and founder of the department.
“Dr. Owen started his teaching career at the Old Fort and was one of the leaders in the transformation of the two-year college to a baccalaureate degree-granting institution once it was moved to Durango,” says Preston Somers, professor emeritus of Biology. “One of his dreams for the college was to have a native plant garden on campus as a teaching facility for the Biology Department.”
Owen died in 2005, but he did know of the early plans for a new Biology wing in Berndt Hall with an adjacent native plant garden to be named in his honor. The garden is located just outside Berndt near Kroeger Hall.
Professor of Biology Ross McCauley is often in the garden with his students, discussing the 45 different species growing there. Most of the species are native to FLC’s backyard and their arrangement in the arboretum creates a unique teaching space in which multiple species can be found together.
"This accreditation recognizes the importance that we as a Department of Biology and a college place on hands-on learning and providing, even on our campus itself, the ability to see biological diversity."
“This accreditation recognizes the importance that we as a Department of Biology and a college place on hands-on learning and providing, even on our campus itself, the ability to see biological diversity,” says McCauley.
The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program is the only global initiative to officially recognize arboreta at various levels of development, capacity, and professionalism. The Herbert E. Owen Native Plant Garden at Fort Lewis College is also now recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants. With an interactive and collaborative affiliation, the Herbert E. Owen Native Plant Garden is sure to receive widespread recognition of the garden and support for the expansion of its collection of native plants.
“I would really like to commend Dr. Preston Sommers for his work on developing this arboretum. It would never have happened without him,” says McCauley. “It’s very exciting to see that even after a career of over 30 years teaching that Preston continues to give back to FLC.”