Every city has natural wonders. Tuscaloosa is no exception. The University of Alabama’s Arboretum at 4800 Arboretum Way provides an enjoyable environment for residents and visitors of Tuscaloosa. The 19-acre tree and foliage park is publicly funded and admission-free. It serves as an enclave for those who want to enjoy a nature walk, entertainment or study.

The park is home to a variety of beautiful plants, trails, an amphitheater, a children’s garden,  and metal sculptures made by local artists. Every aspect of the park is aimed to encourage appreciation of nature through observation and interaction.

An observation platform allows visitors to view both the floor and canopy of the tree park. The canopy, the area at the top of the treeline, stands more than 50 feet from the park’s flower-covered floor. The white blooms of the Alabama state flower, the oak leaf hydrangea, can be found along a trail extending from the central platform. Maps available at the central pavilion feature directions around the park ground and locations of the 138 featured tree species. Information about each tree and flower species is designated with signs at their base.

Signs directing visitors to the Arboretum can be found by driving east on Loop Rd. A short drive down a gravel road leads to the park’s open-air pavilion.

The Arboretum’s Children Garden features a “cob house.” But this is not a cob you can eat.

“Cobs” are tiny, hand-rolled balls of mud and earth arranged into a pyramid. The ancient design was used in Europe for ovens. Once fired, these ovens remained hot for a long periods allowing the cooking of several items. Cob houses were then built to mimic the oven’s shape and insulating properties. The outside of the cob houses are covered in small dimples. The holes are constructed when insects burrow into the exterior walls for winter.

The Children’s Garden also features a fenced-in area for gardening and other educational activities. Sculptures by local artist Steve Davis decorate the garden. Several inviting log seats surround a nearby sun-clock and its accompanying stones.

The Arboretum also features an amphitheater. The structure is smaller than the amphitheater on the Black Warrior River. But the native Alabama stone construction provides a natural setting for weddings and entertainment in Tuscaloosa. The amphitheater features ample seating for a crowd of fewer than a hundred.

Plants and wildlife located in the Arboretum cannot be removed from the park but pictures are encouraged. Take the opportunity to do some Exploring Alabama and enjoy the University of Alabama Arboretum.

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