Sheila Sobchik

Imagine taking a trip around the world where one minute you’re basking in the golden South African sun and the next you’re running through the open landscape of beautiful Australia.

No vivid imagination needed here, this is just one of the many adventures Cal Poly horticulture students experience daily as they take a trip through the on-campus arboretum that plays home to over 1,000 plants from all over the world according to arboretum director Thomas Eltzroth.

The Leaning Pine Arboretum, named after a unique leaning pine that once inhabited the grounds, can trace its roots as far back as the ’70s, but formally became the Leaning Pine Arboretum in 1989 when Eltzroth became the director.

“When we created the grounds we felt we needed an on-campus display of the plants that students needed to learn,” Eltzroth said.

What started out as less than an acre of plants has now blossomed into over five acres of lush landscape packed with plants from various parts of the world.

Eltzroth explained that there are over 10 different gardens on-site, but that the Chilean, Mediterranean, South African, Californian and Australian gardens are the five main gardens and sources of the facilities’ plants.

“People always find it interesting that plants from such different locations, some above the Northern Hemisphere and some below the Southern, all do extremely well here,” Eltzroth said. People even ask if the plants in the Australian Garden bloom in the winter here because it’s summer in Australia; even though they bloom during our spring like all the others do, Eltzroth said.

Unlike many other arboretums, the Leaning Pine prides itself on being both student-run and having some of the best landscape architecture around.

“I feel we have made a positive impact on the community as more local shops are now carrying some of the rarer plants we’ve introduced and it’s always nice to see local landscapers up here with their clients showing them the grounds for different ideas,” Eltzroth said.

Further distinguishing themselves as unique, the staff points out that unlike other arboretums that display rare plants typically unable to survive in the given area, the Leaning Pine takes plants from all over that can easily survive in the Central Coast and displays them in combinations most would never consider.

“It’s not about the rarest stuff in the field, it’s about taking plants that people would never consider and arranging different mixes in such a way that people can and will possibly want to duplicate themselves,” said Eltzroth.

Nestled near the top of Via Carta next to the Poly Plant Shop, the staff hopes that more people will come walk the grounds and experience the beauty as an alternative to visiting local spots like Avila or Pismo beach.

“I didn’t even know we had something like this on campus until my teacher mentioned something to my class, this place is awesome,” business junior Stan Blekh said. “After walking around for a little bit it is a great place to take a date to or just get outside and enjoy.”

With so many plants on-site, Eltzroth mentioned that each day you can come up to the grounds and find something that is beautifully new because it is ever-changing.

“Though my favorite time is from March to June when everything is blooming, the beauty of it all is that you can come up here every day and find something new that is amazing,” Eltzroth said.

The Leaning Pine Arboretum is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free and open to both Cal Poly students and the public. For more information visit their Web site at

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