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Like the trees and other plants it displays, the Davis Arboretum has continued to grow since it was first proposed during a School of Agriculture Teaching Seminar in 1959. A resolution was then passed asking that a plot of land located immediately south of the Auburn University president’s home be used as an arboretum. The seven and one-half acre plot contained woodland, swamp and pastureland areas.
Final approval was secured in 1963, and work began with money made available by Auburn University President Harry Philpott and School of Agriculture Dean and Director E. V. Smith. The pavilion and the Arboretum were dedicated on June 15, 1977.
The Arboretum was developed through the efforts of a faculty committee under the leadership of a distinguished ecology professor, Donald E. Davis. However, the goal could not have been achieved without the financial support of many individuals and organizations. Dr. Roy B. Sewell gave generously for the development of the site. Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, the Auburn Lions Club and many generous alumni provided money through the years for arbors, which are situated throughout the facility. The pavilion, which houses an office, storerooms and an open-air classroom, was made possible by a generous grant from the Callaway Foundation, Inc.
William J. Reynolds served as the first manager of the Arboretum. He worked tirelessly to develop the site, which contained 216 different labeled plant species, of which 146 were trees.
Six acres of land, which was originally part of the Agronomy Farm, was added to the Arboretum in 1977. This area is the site of an arbor surrounded by native vines. It was established in recognition of the distinguished career of Henry P. Orr, emeritus professor of horticulture, with funds donated by Southern Living Magazine, garden clubs of Alabama and Orr’s many friends.
An Arboretum rededication ceremony on May 29, 1982 recognized Dr. Davis for his innumerable contributions to the facility, and it was officially named the Donald E. Davis Arboretum.
Today, the Arboretum is home to more than 300 native species and new specimens are constantly being added to the collection. As the University and the City of Auburn continue to increase in size, the Arboretum will increase in value, not only as an area for study, but also as a readily accessible place where a quiet stroll in the woods is still possible.