Walking to classes, it’s not often students have time to notice the trees, but maybe that’ll change thanks to Matt Ritter, the Cal Poly plant conservatory director, and student volunteers. Ritter guided nearly 40 people around Cal Poly’s rare collection of trees on July 15.

The Cal Poly Plant Conservatory, located in the middle of the campus, is responsible for the curation of all the trees on campus and has an abundant selection of plants in its greenhouses to look at or purchase. This was the second tour put on by the conservatory.

A total of 40 trees are covered on the tour. There are over 200 trees and shrubs identified all over campus with a little black placard stating the plants’ common name, botanical name, family and what region they’re from.

“Once you focus on it, you see it, and when you don’t, you feel cheated,” Ritter said about plant life not yet labeled. “.The signage adds so much value to the campus. It’s hard to cut a tree down when you know something about it.”

From the endangered Chilean Wine Palm to a Macadamia Nut Tree, Cal Poly has it all.

Judy Jurji, 61, said that the tour was enjoyable and allowed her to view trees that she hasn’t seen anywhere else.

Cal Poly alumna Kay Webster, 60, said she can’t believe the attention given to buildings, but not the plants. She said people forget that Cal Poly was built as an agricultural school and will always be an agricultural school.

Ritter noted that although the campus structure is always changing, trees are being saved. The latest rescued from the timber shredder was the Smooth Leaf Elm in the construction zone for the Bonderson Engineering Projects Center.

In fact, the reason why there are declining steps into Kennedy Library was to save the Queensland Lacebark Tree, located nearest to the steps coming from the stop sign from North Perimeter Street.

Many types of trees from the genus Eucalyptus are found in abundance on campus and in San Luis Obispo. Ritter joked, “Who thinks that Koalas should be introduced to Montana De Oro?” The group had a good laugh. Ritter said that would be nice, but the park doesn’t have the eucalyptus trees Koalas like to eat.

Every tree had a story to it, such as the Cape Chestnut, native to Coastal South Africa, that only blooms in the summer or The Floss Silk Tree with its prickles, thorn-like objects covering its trunk, most likely for protection against animals that plan to eat the bark sweetened by photosynthesis.

“I’ve been a plant person forever; I didn’t know these were here,” Joan Field, 59, said after the tour was completed.

To learn more about plant life on campus, tree tours or the Cal Poly Plant Conservatory, check out its Web site at www.plantconservatory.calpoly.edu.

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