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A Walk in the Woods: The Earl L. Core Arboretum

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 20th, 2015

Purple flowers in the Earl L. Core Arboretum

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

In 1948, Biology professor Earl L. Core had the foresight to envision a place where students in the biology and botany departments could do field research  He envisioned students and faculty engaging in botanical research right in the heart of the city.  After a discussion with then WVU president Irwin Stewart, ninety one lush acres of undeveloped woodland, rising at its base from the banks of the Monongahela River to its height bordering Monongahela Boulevard, were set aside to preserve and to study the distinctive biodiversity within this realm of river bottom and ridge line.  The Arboretum was born. 

It wasn’t long before the Arboretum became more than a place to study biology and botany.  The Arboretum became a destination, a pleasant place to walk, as in this photograph from the 1950s, but also a place to observe wildlife, to identify plants, to exercise, and to participate in university sponsored programs, like birding.

Couple Strolling on a Trail at the Arboretum, West Virginia University

Every season is beautiful in the Arboretum, but spring could be considered the highpoint of the year with the wide variety of flowering plants that line its trails and slopes.  The rich diversity of plant life available provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about spring wildflowers.  On Sunday I took a walk in the woods, and these are a few of the blooms I found in the Arboretum.

Virginia Bluebells, Dutchman's Britches/Squirrel Corn, and white trillium in the Earl L. Core Arboretum

Some flowers currently blooming in the Arboretum along walking trails include, from left to right in the photo above, Virginia Bluebells, the tiny white flowers of Dutchman’s Britches (also known as Squirrel Corn, a member of the Bleeding Heart family), and the large, white trillium.  Below, another form of trillium, called Wake Robin, has tightly closed, deep red blooms that never fully open.  The yellow flower is called Trout Lily or Dogtooth Violet for the curving petals that resemble a dog’s tooth.

Wake Robin in the Earl L. Core Arboretum

Trout Lily or Dogtooth Violet in the Earl L. Core Arboretum

The arboretum was named for Professor Core in 1975 and the Biology department still manages the woodland, river bottom, specimen lawn and the more than three miles of trails available to visitors.  Stop by today and see these beautiful wildflowers or check out their Facebook page at for scheduled wildflower and spring bird walks.


Black & white photo:  West Virginia and Regional History Center

Color photos: Stewart Plein


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