Eighty to ninety percent of Europe was once covered in forests. Much of Europe is densely populated, and its flora has been greatly affected by Europe’s agricultural history.
Today, the continent still offers a palette of plants that can thrive in Northern Illinois, primarily those which survived the major glaciation of Europe that occurred 10,000 years ago, causing the extinction of numerous species. This collection is one of the oldest on the Arboretum grounds, started in 1925 by Henry Teuscher, the Arboretum’s first botanist.
As you drive on the Main Route on the West Side, just over the bridge, the large Norway spruce (Picea abies) plantings on the right side of the road attract attention to the collection. The quiet mystery of the cool and dark spruce plot makes you feel as if you were hiking in the forests of Norway and Romania. Norway spruce is widely distributed in its native ranges, and this large planting of spruce was established to symbolize the vast spruce forests once common in Europe.
Of the nearly 125 taxa represented in the collection, some of the outstanding specimens include silver fir (Abies alba), whose silvery underleaf color gives it its common name. This species is native to the mountains of Europe and tends to develop a perfect pyramidal shape. As you continue along the West Side Main Route, look to your right to see this impressive tree.
Laurel willow (Salix pentandra) is very different from many other willows in that its leaves are extremely glossy. It is generally a large shrub or small tree. Also in this collection, you will find the two most widely planted oaks in Europe: durmast oak or sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and English oak (Quercus robur). Check out these key species of the collection and many more.