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Tour to focus on Jayhawk Boulevard's unique flora

For the first time in recent history, KU staff are planning a free spring flora walking tour along Jayhawk Boulevard on April 26. Craig Freeman and Caleb Morse, botanists with the R.L. McGregor Herbarium, are scouting a route to point out the variety of blooms that over the years have helped garner national praise for the natural beauty of the campus.

Come rain or shine, the tour will begin at 11 a.m. from the Kansas Union lobby and is expected to take about 90 minutes, concluding back at the union.

Margey Frederick, director of special events and visitor services, is coordinating the tour. Reservations for the tour may be made with Frederick by calling (785) 864-7103 or e-mailing mfrederick@ku.edu.

The spring flora tour is also a first for Freeman and Morse. Both give wildflower tours throughout Kansas, but neither has mapped a tour of flora along Jayhawk Boulevard.

They are preparing a list of the plant species, with common and scientific names, that will be focal points of the tour.

Their lists include varieties of redbud, plum, crab apple, pear, maple, oak and walnut trees in bloom along the hill and slopes of the ridge known as Mount Oread. Though their focus will be trees and shrubs, some of the naturalized annual and perennial plantings along the tour route also will be identified.

The tour will include historical perspectives on changes in vegetation in the area around Jayhawk Boulevard.

"Public records going to back to when the area was surveyed, show that most of the upland area around Lawrence was grassland," Freeman notes.

Freeman notes that early campus photos reveal a stark, near treeless landscape. Yet since KU opened its first building in 1866, state officials, KU leaders and area residents have worked to transform the campus into a distinctive, beautiful public space. It paid off: The campus was described as one of the 12 most beautiful campuses in the nation in Thomas A. Gaines' 1991 book "The Campus as a Work of Art."

Visitors interested in lingering after the tour can get lunch at the Kansas Union food court. Other points of interest for Saturday visitors include four university museums open on Saturday: natural history, art, athletics and the Dole Institute of Politics. More information about the museums hours and locations is available online www.ku.edu/museums/.

The McGregor Herbarium is one of 12 research divisions of KU's Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center. The herbarium is open by appointment during the week to scientists and the public by calling (785) 864-4493.

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