Research Projects


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Solving global challenges one day at a time - The UA Campus Arboretum is built upon the historical priorities of the Land Grant Institution to encourage land stewardship. Today we continue our commitment to research which promotes sustainable land management and conservation of plant biodiversity and natural resources. View this short video to better understand how we are living the Land Grant Mission by extending research and education to communities across Arizona and beyond!







One of the services provided by the UA Campus Arboretum is to provide germplasm for the community. Occassionally, the germplasm is in the form of seeds (when they're available on the tree - we don't keep a seed bank) or fresh plant samples (leaves, roots, or stem cuttings) for propagation or study. The process of orchestrating the collection requires impressive coordination between the person or group making the request, the collector (usually a student intern), the grounds services, and the Plant Science office staff. Fresh samples must be collected, packed in dry ice, and shipped the same day for overnight delivery. Further, where research is done using the samples, there is an added layer of interest to consider the value and impact of the arboretum collections. Here, we share a "sampling" of plant sampling stories for you! :)


Celebrating Diversity!


The University of Arizona has been a leader in desert horticulture from its beginning, bringing in plants from around the world and working with nurseries to ensure desert cities have a supply of trees and plants suited for our climate. The main campus in Tucson, is situated in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, the most biologically diverse desert in the world. We are a city that celebrates plants with dozens of local experts and a healthy sampling of world-renown botanists.


In 2018, nine remarkable undergraduate students researched and created content describing more than 300 species found in the Campus Arboretum collection! Their teamwork and exceptional productivity was truly inspiring. The content they produced now populates webpages individually featuring educational material informing the public about the botanical characteristics, cultivation, natural history and ethnobotanical value of these plants. The species web pages are part of a larger effort of the Campus Arboretum to educate the campus and community and promote understanding and use of desert landscape plants in ways that encourage their appropriate use in urban landscapes, maximize their beauty and health, and conserving use of resources for their maintenance. The research opportunity provided students with experience and depth of knowledge that complements their classroom learning, leadership and teambuilding as well as a sense of plant science subject mastery.

Despite advances in technology in capturing botanical detail, scientific illustration retains its value as an effective medium and educational resource simply because it encapsulates all important views, detail magnification, and all features of the plants life cycle in one small panel. Furthermore, botanical illustrations are masterfully created and exquisitely beautiful! When compiled into a collection representing the flora of an area, the illustrations are called a florilegia, which serve as a historical and scientific record of the species diversity. 


K-12 school students with help from researchers at the University of Arizona have published a paper in the American Journal of Botany that may help better climate models. Their work reveals that the shrinking of dried leaves, if unaccounted for, may make climate models less reliable. A summary of the article with mention of the UA Campus Arboretum can be found at:

Trees provide ecosystem services that sustain environmental and human health. Yet, despite their significant contributions, their value is difficult to define. In the Spring of 2012, students working for the Campus Arboretum completed an inventory of all trees on campus. Data collected was processed using  i-Tree software to calculate their total economic contributions. This data will not only establish priorities and direct more sustainable collections planning but will also provide a means to more effectively advocate for preservation of trees using quantitative data. For a short introduction to the project, see page 12-18 of the UA Climate Action Plan. Alternatively, you may read a short summary here or view the full report.

Asher Haug-Baltzell, an undergraduate in Plant Sciences, completed a reserach project for honors credit in PLS330 (Plant Propagation) in the Fall of 2011 to determine if seedling media could be optimized with the addition of composted worm casings to produce more vigorous plants resistant to transplant shock upon transfer to standard NFT hydroponics systems.

2000 trees lining the main streets intersecting campus were measured in this 2006 study to determine their enivronmental and economic contributions. Results will estimate the total contributions of the Campus Arboretum trees to the overall health of Tucson's urban forest. A summary of the results can be found in a  2008 memo and in the Fall 2008 Campus Arboretum newsletter.