Arboretum News

Tree Story: A Sign of Past Lives

An Arboretum tree grows around an old scythe.

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Editor’s Note: We’re celebrating our Season of Trees with Tree Tuesday on the Nature Notes blog. Come back each Tuesday for stories exploring the Arboretum’s trees and tree collections, and read more personal Tree Stories submitted by Arboretum members, staff and visitors.

It’s tricky to find, but there’s an old scythe embedded in a tree in the ravine near the Frerichs Garden for Wildlife parking lot. Photo by Jeffrey Johnson.

By Jeffrey Johnson

The history of the Arboretum land is quite interesting, having been part of the First Nation Dakota tribe until European settlers arrived in the 1800s. Then the land the Arboretum occupied was used for various agricultural endeavors. One artifact of this is found in a ravine near the Frerichs Garden for Wildlife parking lot.

An old scythe is embedded in a tree, nearly completely covered over, just the tip of which is still visible. Imagining how it got here, one could speculate a farmer was cutting hay, took a break in the ravine’s shade, set the scythe in a tree crotch, was distracted and forgot where the scythe was placed, never to be found.

Information on the storied history of the Arboretum and its development into its current configuration can be found in the Behrens Cabin on Three-Mile Drive, just past the DeVos Home Demonstration Garden. This history center was created thanks to the generosity of the Arboretum Auxiliary. The cabin, along with all Arboretum buildings, is temporarily closed to the public.

SHARE YOUR TREE STORY | We want to hear about your favorite trees at the Arboretum! Do you have a regular picnic tree? Or a special tree you like to visit? Tell us about your favorite tree at the Arboretum and include a photo if you have one. Send stories to  

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