The Prince Street Arboretum is a public arboretum in Old Town Alexandria, established in 2014 by Assistant Professor Nathan Heavers with the help of graduate students John Whilden (MLA ’15) and Jeffrey Curtis (MLA ’17). The arboretum takes advantage of the existing street tree diversity along Prince Street and has spurred recent planting. Its primary purpose is for plant identification classes at Virginia Tech. However, the arboretum belongs to and is a product of the wider community. It highlights the character, patterns, and importance of Alexandria’s street trees more generally. Beyond Prince Street there are over sixty species found on Old Town’s streets. These are the result of resident-inspired planting over decades and the work of the city’s arborists. The tree diversity of Old Town exemplifies the American tradition of urban residents planting neighborhood street trees, as was the practice in many 18th century cities before the rise of municipal arboriculture.
In Finding and mapping a teaching arboretum in Alexandria, Virginia, Heavers discusses the importance of the Prince Street Arboretum as a teaching tool. The arboretum is unique in terms of its location within the urban fabric. However, it builds on the Renaissance tradition of teaching from living specimens, which began in the first European botanical gardens. These gave rise to arboreta in the early 19th century, which have typically fulfilled an educational role. The Prince Street Arboretum extends this legacy and brings it into a new context. It is relevant and timely because diverse urban trees contribute to the character of cities and perform important ecological services.
Contributors: Nathan Heavers
Link to paper.