Lyndale Park’s easy-to-miss arboretum

Few may realize that Lyndale Park holds an arboretum planted by Theodore Wirth.

“The arboretum is there, but there is no signage,” said East Harriet resident Phil Martin. “It’s like going to an art gallery, and maybe the lights are on them but there are no signs for what the paintings are like.”

Because it’s easy for passersby to miss the significance of the trees, Martin decided to fix that. He’s been lobbying the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to post signage around the trees, and this spring, about 50 signs will arrive.

Submitted by Phil Martin
One of several Heritage trees at the Lyndale Park arboretum, shown in May 2016. Photo submitted by Phil Martin

“There are records of Theodore Wirth having trees planted and planting trees himself as early as 1910,” Martin said.

Lyndale Park Gardener Andrew Gawboy explained that Wirth’s original vision was to plant premium trees in an arboretum to give the public a better idea of when they bloom.

The first trees and shrubs were planted in 1910 and most of the collection was in the ground by 1915, according to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Several trees in the park are the city’s largest of their species. They include a 57-foot Cucumber Magnolia, a 37-foot Austrian Pine and a 36-foot White Fir, according to a Park Board map.

Signs would point out trees that were planted in groups, including groups of Oaks and nut trees. Labels would also highlight Heritage trees, meaning they’re very large, very old or historically significant.

Ginkgo trees are fairly common in Minneapolis today, but Martin said the tree was a novelty when it arrived at the arboretum around 1910.

“In those years, it was an import from China,” he said. “I think that was the only one in town.”

Conservationist Richard J. Dorer — memorialized in the southeast Minnesota state hardwood forest —brought national visitors to see the Ginkgo tree in the 50s, Martin said. Foresters couldn’t believe the tree could survive in Minneapolis, he said.

Arboretum 2 - Submitted by Phil Martin

After a tornado hit Lyndale Park in the early 80s, the Men’s and Women’s Garden Club of Minneapolis donated and planted nearly 100 new trees.

The Park Board is working with the University of Minnesota’s Tree Trek program to create the signs, using a design currently found in St. Paul’s Mounds Park.

The East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association contributed $1,800 to pay for the signage.

“This would give the arboretum an educational aspect like it once had,” Gawboy said. “…That’s what the vision was. By adding signs we’ll bring a little bit more interest and make the arboretum a nice walking area.”