The Founders’ Grove is located in the southeast corner of the arboretum and is home to the first trees planted on the arboretum grounds. Beginning in 1970, board members celebrated the purchase of the 40-acre site by participating in an ceremonial tree planting. Honorariums to the founders of the arboretum are still being added today.
The State Champion Southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis) was also planted here, but was regrettably deaccessioned in 2014 due to canopy death. However, several other specimens deserve a historical highlight.
Evan’s white fir (Abies concolor ‘Evans’) is a original Founders’ Grove specimen which was grafted by Iowa State Horticultural Society’s President, Albert Ferguson in 1970. Consequently, this marked the gradual development of the Founders’ Grove collection.
Kompact sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Kompact’), another specimen propagated by the late Albert (Al) Ferguson, has a unforgettable teardrop silhouette with brilliant golden-orange fall color. Al recognized the unique growth pattern of one particular specimen compared to all the other sugar maples growing along “K Street” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After observing this specimen for several years, Al determined that it was worth propagating for cuttings. It took several years for Al to grow the cuttings out, but the tree was finally transplanted to the Founders’ Grove; where it resides today.
The three-flowered maple, (Acer triflorum), is said to have limitless use in the landscape. Shining in three seasons with it’s graceful habit, exquisite exfoliating bark, and brilliant fall color, this species was first discovered in 1917 by Ernest H. Wilson from the Arnold Arboretum. While the largest and oldest three-flower specimen is said to still reside at the Arnold Arboretum, the specimen that dwells in the Iowa Arboretum’s Founders’ Grove dates back to 1970, and has been speculated to be the largest in Iowa. The three-flowered maple gained popularity in the nursery trade with earning a Gold Medal Award in 1996 from The Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, as well as the Great Plant Pick in 2004, and the Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s Cary Award in 2008.