Last Friday we went on a field trip to the LSU Hilltop Arboretum.
The property was originally developed by Mr. Emory Smith. He planned his garden after the design of a cathedral: there are several "rooms" of grassy space with "hallways" of trails and passageways leading off in several different directions with trees, shrubs and bamboo for "walls" and tree trunks for "pillars." He loved the property and wanted it to serve the community as a place to experience, enjoy and learn about nature and plants and landscape design so he donated it to LSU in 1981. The property is open daily and is free of charge.
They found seven turtles swimming around and two large bullfrogs.
Before exploring the rest of the property, one of the staff shared with the kids some of nature's beauty that they might discover. She showed us a butterfly cocoon.
She showed us several bird nests, one of which was a hummingbird nest. Honestly, I'd never even thought about hummingbirds having nests! I don't know why. It was the smallest, most delicate nest I'd ever seen.
She also showed us several different varieties of pine cones.
We were then free to explore and treasure hunt throughout the property. We could pick up anything we found on the ground, but we were asked to leave in tact any blooms and such on the bushes and trees.
We found several blooming plants and some really interesting flowers. I'd love to go back and visit when everything is in full bloom.
The kids enjoyed exploring the ravine, which was full of magnolia trees, silver bell trees, horse sugar trees and azaleas.
This large oak tree was going to be the backdrop for a wedding the following evening. I imagine it was beautiful!
I think the favorite, hands down, was the big hill. They couldn't wait to roll down it. There's something about a hill that's just irresistible to children.
We explored the bamboo pass and noticed several unusual plants that I'd never seen before.
Most all of the trees, shrubs and plants had little placards beside them telling us their names. I wish I remembered the name of this one. It was my favorite.
In addition to the turtles and bullfrogs, it's stocked with bass, bluegill and sunfish. It's a catch-and-release pond, but we didn't have our rods. There are also two soft-shell turtles that make their home there, but we didn't see them. And, what's a pond in south Louisiana without an alligator?! Apparently there's a small one currently living here. Mason looked all around for him but couldn't find him. And that was totally fine with me!
The dogwoods were blooming. I'd forgotten how beautiful their blooms are.
There's also the Hodge Podge Nursery at the arboretum. Most of the plants are native to Louisiana so they do well here, and they are available for purchase.
The kids really enjoyed this field trip because it gave them an opportunity to simply run around and explore. One of the moms told me she brings her kids often and picnics on the grounds. It was our first visit, but it probably won't be our last!
Contributor: Julie B.