The Jesusita Fire of 2009 damaged sixty of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s seventy-eight acres, several buildings and structures, and acres of trees including many full-grown conifers. In total we lost 9,500 accessioned plants, as well as most of our tools and vehicles. An 850 year-old Coast Redwood tree round that had formed a popular exhibit in the Redwood Section near Mission Creek was destroyed by the flames. Students and visitors of all ages had delighted in counting the rings to learn the tree’s age, as well as learning about the history of this old tree and the human history that corresponded to its long life. The loss of this exhibit has been mourned by our community.
Through the efforts of a number of foresters, a new Sierra Big Tree round was donated to the Garden. We have constructed an exhibit to showcase the round next to an existing Coast Redwood at the entrance to our Children’s Discovery Garden. The layout was created by designer Wyllis Heaton and the impressive tree round is displayed in front of a sandstone wall with sandstone flags beneath.
To complete the exhibit, we must interpret the round and install signage. Education staff will create curriculum and props for use during docent-guided school tours of the new exhibit area. An additional chapter, complete with appropriate activities, will be written for our Teacher Resource Guide to the Discovery Garden.
Interpretive themes will include:
• The ecology of the Sierra Big Tree as contrasted with that of the Coast Redwood
• The relationships between and geographical ranges of the three related genera (Sierra Big Tree, Coast Redwood, and Dawn Redwood – the latter now exists only in Asia)
• Dendrochronology (the use of tree rings to study the age of trees) and its application in the study of climate change
• The history of Sierra Big Tree and Coast Redwood trees in California
The following historical points will be indicated and connected with specific tree rings helping to provide relevance to people’s experience and family history:
• Key natural events and changes in growing conditions during the life of the tree
• Key dates in the history of the United States and of the world
• Breakthroughs in the history of technology
The Garden targets underserved audiences mainly through our school and family programs. As in previous years, over 60% of participants in our 2008-09 school programs came from the Goleta Union and Santa Barbara Elementary School Districts. According to the California Department of Education statistics, a large proportion of these students are from economically disadvantages households. Science-related English language development will be an important aspect of our interpretive materials as many local students are second language learners and/or limited English speakers.
Total project cost: $26,000