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Governor’s Oak Grove

The establishment of this collection launched the first major project at the Arboretum and the beginning of Arbor Week celebrations in Iowa.

In 1971, Governor Robert D. Ray of Iowa offered Iowans the opportunity to minimize environmental pressures in the landscape. An Environmental Action Program (EAP) was launched in April and May of 1971 to beautify, conserve, and become soil stewards of the Iowan landscape. Due to the interrelationship of these and other environmental programs, Governor Ray sponsored a similar program in 1972, which established the Governor’s Arbor Week segment of the EAP, and the ceremonial tree plantings that have occurred thereafter. Governor Robert D. Ray had the honor of planting the first Arbor Day, Governors’ Grove oak in 1972, which is a respectable, if still juvenile-sized Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinia) today.

Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) is native to Iowa and planted in this collection. Several oak specimens originated as transplants from the native 300-acre woodlands across Peach Avenue, including many red (Quercus rubra) and white oaks (Quercus alba).

Many oak species are native to Iowa, and thus, have been planted in the Governors’ Grove to honor of those in public service at the state level. Honorariums for Iowa’s past Governors, First Ladies, and Lieutenant Governors fill the grove, all being dedicated at past Iowa Arboretum Arbor Day celebrations.

The original planting was developed by Neal Franson, Professor Robert Dyas, and Iowa State University students. The construction of the Hughes Education Center in 1999 lead to a large transplanting project of several honorarium oaks. Therefore, the collection was relocated to the southeast portion of the 40-acre site. While this is our most concentrated planting of oaks, over two dozen species of oaks and oak hybrids are represented throughout the 40-acre arboretum grounds.

 Left – Governor Terry Branstad, 2012

Right – Governor & Senator Harold Hughes, date unknown

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