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Wednesday April 23, 2014
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City Guide

U-M Nature Areas

U-M Nature Areas

Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro. (734) 647-7600. The gardens' spacious conservatory has a room with tropical plants, including award-winning orchids and striking bromeliads; a central greenhouse with plants of warm-temperate climates, a bonsai exhibit, and an exhibit of insectivorous plants; and a desert house with a collection of cacti and other desert plants, including several giants that make news with their rare periodic blooms. A formal bonsai garden, Great Lakes Garden of native plants, children's garden, wildflowers, perennials, herbs, and shade-loving and New World plants are found in the gardens outside. The surrounding 350 acres are crisscrossed by walking trails and feature mature woodlands, wetlands, several ponds, and a tallgrass prairie. Docent-led tours can be arranged. Classes, workshops, family activities, and other special events. Outdoor gardens and trails open daily year-round sunrise-sunset. Conservatory and garden shop open seven days a week: Mon., Tues., & Thurs.- Sun. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Summer hours (mid-May through Labor Day): garden shop, conservatory, main building, and display gardens, daily 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Free admission to grounds and conservatory (parking $1.20/hr. for non-members, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; $5 max per day).

Nichols Arboretum, 1610 Washington Hts. (734) 647-7600. One of Ann Arbor's most popular spots for more than 100 years, this preserve (part of it owned by the city) occupies 123 acres of land rising dramatically from the Huron River. The forests of the "Arb," crisscrossed by long, winding trails, include tree species from all over the world. Equally treasured are its prairie grasslands, insulated by forest and landform. Gardens include the largest collection of antique and heirloom peonies in North America, which bloom each year in early June about the time of the Arb's annual Shakespeare productions; the Centennial Shrub Collection, with fragrant early-blooming lilacs and other shrubs; and rhododendrons in the shady, restful Heathdale Collection. The Arb's recently restored riverfront is a popular spot for a picnic. Trails are free and open daily sunrise-sunset. The James D. Reader Center (1610 Washington Hts.) has maps, guidebooks, and histories for visitors Tues.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed Mon. and weekends.

Saginaw Forest. (734) 662-8011. This 80-acre woods on Liberty Rd. west of Wagner is owned and operated by the U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment and is used primarily for field study and research. It consists of several forest plantations dating back to 1903, has long been used for testing forest management techniques, and provides excellent wildlife habitat. Its path around Third Sister Lake is a favorite of dog walkers and cross-country skiers. No parking at the gate.
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