Summer 2020 EJC Arboretum

Dear Friends of the Arboretum,

Aah summer is here! After such a long and delightfully beautiful spring it feels good to move into the expansive feel of summer again. And what a lush and verdant Arboretum canopy is growing overhead now created by regular weekly rains and cooler temperatures! The Arboretum has been a wonderful haven for many walkers, runners, and community members looking for respite from the stay-at-home scenario that we were living through the past spring season. Many visitors have shared their appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis, while many others discovered the Arboretum for the first time in spring and exclaimed how beautiful it was here! They had never seen the Arboretum in its spring glory before as they were always inside working and missing the springtime show here. What a wonderful benefit for so many people shut-in from the slowdown the past few months.

Spring at the Arboretum

And with so many of us at home many people have turned their attentions to their yards and gardens. The garden center industry has boomed this past season. If you haven’t had a chance to come and shop at the Education Center (tree and shrub selections are available now), or to take advantage of our Grab N’ Go online shopping for many native and non-native perennials and ferns, you can visit our website and find a varied selection still available for your choosing.

Our new, At Home in the Woods, Family Garden, is underway with the design team finishing up the design proposal that goes out to bid in July. The design team and Arboretum staff have been working steadily on this project through the spring season. We look forward to accepting bid proposals this summer with plans for fall construction that will extend through the spring of 2021! This proposal will finish out Phase 1 of the Little Legs Loop, providing a full spectrum of outdoor activity stations for young learners ages 3-7 years old. It will also add bathrooms to the Pavilion, and an accessible ramp from the Pavilion parking lot to the pond.

The recent exciting news of Virginia becoming one of four states to declare Juneteenth-June 19th-a state holiday is still fresh in my mind. With the times being what they are lately, and have been for far too long, for black communities, I feel that our country’s race situation must be addressed here as well. It is not a time to stay silent and let the unrest pass. It is a time for action that includes deep listening and empathy, self-reflection, and learning. If the systemic racial inequities that exist deep into the fabric of our nation are to change, the burden rests on white folks to stand up and support our brothers and sisters to push forward the policies, laws, and practices that support us finally walking our talk as a nation that provides, “freedom and justice for all”.

“Matter is the minimum. Black lives are worthy. Black lives are beloved. Black lives are needed.”

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum has long stood as a place for ALL families, students, and community members to gather and take in the beauty and wonder of our natural world, regardless of race, religion, age or gender. We will continue to be a woodland sanctuary for everyone in our community, while we also learn and listen for how we can do our part to expand our inclusion efforts. And to help inform the majority of us who must expand our historical knowledge and understanding around the formation of the pillars of white culture that from inception created division, and continues now into the present moment to divide and oppress so many of our citizens and community members.

If you missed springtime here do be sure to come out and walk the very green oak-hickory forest for a summer forest bath, the herb garden for its myriad textures and smells, and the many summer gardens growing fully in bountiful floral beauty and bold colors. Nature provides a healing presence that can transform our hearts into becoming more open and understanding humans ready to do what’s right for a growing black and brown citizenry.

Let us step together as we move along the trail of justice and equal rights,

Jan Sievers Mahon, Arboretum Director

Elderberry Herbal Remedies

Contributing Writer | Kyle Kirby

Sambucus canadensis, or the American elderberry, is in prime blooming season at the moment. The creamy white flower clusters give off a faintly sweet aroma, before dropping off and becoming deeply violet-indigo hued berries later in August and September. Though slightly toxic when eaten raw, the berries can be processed into a variety of drinks, jams, and herbal medicines.

The elderberry’s history with mankind dates far back with texts from the ancient Greeks, as well as the discovery of elderberry stores in prehistoric North American human sites. Though there are many species of elderberry, Sambucus canadensis is the main variety used in and native to North America. The Native Americans used the plant to make flutes, dyes, meals, medicines and more. In folk medicine they are most often used to treat common ailments like stomach ache, congestion, constipation, cough, and sore throat. As with most herbal remedies, more research is needed. However, according to a division of Purdue University, “Some of these properties seem justified since elderberry fruits contain tannins and viburnic acid, both known to have a positive effect on diarrhea, nasal congestion, and to improve respiration.”

Elderberries are high in vitamin C and fiber, and also contain several antioxidants: phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins. Each compound has unique benefits, but all of them are said to have anti-inflammatory properties. The elderflowers are especially rich in flavonols, and can be eaten raw, fried, or cooked into pancakes or teas.

Both elderflowers and elderberries can be made into liqueurs. They are simple enough to make at home, or one can find the French company St. Germain’s version in most liquor stores. It has a light, sweet flavor that is perfect for summer afternoons.

The berries are especially popular as a syrup; it can be used as an immune booster for cold and flu symptoms, as an addition to drinks, or as a decadent dressing for breakfast foods and desserts. Look for the easy recipe below and try making your own immune boosting syrup, and/or healthful cocktail mixer from, Loving the Home Life.

With so many culinary uses and potential health benefits, the elderberry is an asset to any garden, and a friendly plant to keep an eye out for when enjoying nature.

The Arboretum will be selling locally grown Sambucus canadensis elderberry plants in various sizes come fall if you'd like to try and grow these wonderful native shrubs. If you can't wait until then and would like to try a landscape cultivar known for their wonderful foliage and flowers go to our website for our online Grab n' Go plant sale to place an order.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Substitute ginger for the cloves and allspice if too spicy for your taste: 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried ginger, or 1 drop of essential ginger oil. Ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and clove all have anti-viral compounds in them and make for powerful additives to this immune boosting syrup.

Summer Plant Sale

We are thrilled to open the Frances Plecker Education Center back up to the public and our JMU community as of last week! And along with that - we're able to bring back our summer plant stand filled with perennials, shrubs, and trees! The next time you make a visit to the Arboretum, take a look at the rotating plants we have to offer!

Shopping Hours

Monday - Thursday | 9 AM - 3 PM

Fridays | 9 AM - 12 PM

Want to make an online order instead? We're continuing to offer this popular service throughout the summer!

A New Map for the Arboretum

We've been working hard to finalize a new map for the Arboretum! You'll find it easier to read visually, more clearly defined gardens, pertinent information about parking, accessibility, and public safety, along with information about become a Friends of the Arboretum Member! Check our kiosks later this week for this new and improved version!

Kind Words

This is a lovely arboretum. Wonderful paths though the trees. Also a nice meditation labyrinth. - Gregory

Unbelievably beautiful - Valerie

A small treasure in the city. Escape without going anywhere! - Jenny

Kid's Craft

Make a Twig Boat!

Let your kiddo be a little engineer and encourage them to design and make their own stick boat! Twig rafts, boats, and floats are simple to make and so much fun! You can float them in a puddle, stream, pond, or even a bucket of water. Encourage your little one to try to make a twig boat using only materials found in nature!

For a simple twig boat, collect a bundle of twigs roughly the same size and several long pieces of sturdy grass. Lay out the grass vertically underneath your twigs (6-8) which are laid together on top of the grass. Tightly wrap the grass around the twigs to bring them together – this may take a few attempts. Try to keep your twigs flat and tight together. Take one extra twig and slot it into the bottom of your boat to become your mast. Gently thread a leaf by poking the mast through it in two places – this will make the sail. Add a few fallen tiny flowers for decoration and start testing to see if your twig boat floats. Once you perfect your design, get with a sibling, parent, or friend and have a twig boat race!

Activity adapted from family-budgeting.co.uk/

Congratulations to our Photo Contest Winners!

These last few months we've switched up our Photo Contest rules! We've been accepting images from your home gardens as well! It has been so fun to see how spring has unfolded in your spaces! We plan to continue this prompt through the summer!

To submit to our Monthly Photo Contest, send us up to 3 high resolution images from either the Arboretum or your home garden to our Facebook page!

April Winner - Isaac Matlock
May Winner - Emma van Horn-Carter


As we move forward with slowly incorporating events back into the Arboretum's schedule, we plan to begin with offering outdoor only programs, in small groups. Stay tuned for more updates!

Forest Bathing

With Annette Naber

July 15th | 10 AM - 11 AM | Free

Limited Spaces Available!