By Jerome Adams
On a cold January day this writer visited a place that was like summer. The air was warm and plants were green and
many were in bloom. Row after row in the greenhouses of the Arboretum of the University of Alabama delighted the
senses of one who prefers warm weather and not the well below freezing days of the winter vortex in the first week of
the new year. Canada can just keep that cold air!
Habitually, when visiting the Weather Channel for T Town weather, just for fun I inquire about the weather of Belize, a
place desired to visit. There the high is about 80 F degrees and low about 70 F every day! Always there is a chance
of rain but that just makes the plants grow well and there are many days of little or no rain. Belize is directly south of
Alabama and right under the Yucatan peninsula.
Got your bags packed yet?
The Arboretum of the University of Alabama is a nature/tree sanctuary of 19 acres that is at the east end of 15th Street
and next to the VA Hospital. Signs indicate where to turn and another sign on the gate introduces you to this scenic,
preserved area. Since it is a public area and part of the UA in a real sense it belongs to all of us and is for our use and
enjoyment and free.
As one enters, to the right is a former golf course now used by the UA’s cross country track team for training.
Additionally, the concourse is used as an unofficial dog park. To the end of the paved entrance is a gravel/dirt road
that goes through a fairly densely wooded area and parallel to railroad tracks seen to the left. At the end of the narrow
road is a parking area. Slightly down hill a short distance is the pavilion and behind that are the greenhouses,
wonderful escapes from the cold and dreariness of winter.
Named trails lead from the parking lot. A map is available in the open area of the pavilion. A trail going to the left takes
one to the observation platform elevating one about 50 feet above the forest floor. With leaves removed from the
trees an observer can see much farther into the forest. A trail leading from the right side of the parking lot will take the
trekker to a small amphitheater made of Alabama rock. Trails wind through the park and end back at the pavilion or
parking lot. Many of the plants along the trails are marked with common and scientific names on small, metal
markers. These walks would be very good exercise and entertaining and educational enough to not seem to be
exercise. Taking along a friend is suggested.
As a former middle school science teacher, this writer knows that often science projects are assigned in the spring so
the arboretum might be a good source of information and discovery. No one should pick from the plants or take anything
but pictures, however. Please leave everything as found. Place trash in trash cans and pick up anything dropped.
Additionally, no one will complain if one were to pick up stuff left by less conscientious trekkers.
Frequent visits will reveal the changes as spring begins and turns into summer. A project might be to document the
changes using a camera.
Upon entering the first greenhouse the contrast with the starkness of the leafless trees on the approach contrasted
with the burst of colors of blooming green plants! Reds always stand out but taking time to see what was really there
revealed many other colors. Toward the back of the first was small field of cacti. A sign read “Do not water.” Needles
stuck out prominently as a warning so few would be enticed to touch. Some were in bloom.
Labeling made it easy to identify each plant. There were succulents such as aloe vera and others with stems but no
leaves. A wide variety of plants was in rows and obviously maintained by caring workers.
Originally there were two greenhouses placed a short distance apart and a third was constructed between using one of the walls
of the others with a roof and end panels added.
In the third greenhouse, larger plants were growing and at the far end sat a mesh chair that invited the writer to sit a spell
and enjoy this oasis of summer in winter. The outside temp was a little milder than the frigid days before, but inside was
in the 80s. The bright sunshine did its job to nurture and warm the enclosed environment. A small goldfish pond was
ringed with a variety of colorful plants and near the chair.
Plants were in the sides and middle of the third greenhouse. A preliminary walk was made scanning all the plants and
then a slower, more intensive investigation was made and you are encouraged to do the same. Otherwise, you will
probably miss many interesting aspects of the plants.
This writer likes to encourage readers to become participants in life by exploring nearby interesting and inexpensive
places for entertainment, education, and enjoyment. Pictures in a book or on the internet will never suffice for the real
thing seen in person. Alabama has a wide variety of places to visit for the reasons already mentioned. Try it and you
may discover for yourself and take a friend. Though Belize is inviting, one can enjoy some of the benefits of that

environment by traveling only a short distance and paying nothing for the entranc

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