I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I didn’t love field trips. Whether they were informative and educational or purely excursionary in nature, I always enjoyed taking a day off from the classroom setting and stepping out into the real world. On Wednesday, I did just that with my Forest Ecosystems professor who fearlessly led all 200 of us (it’s a popular class) through the gardens nestled on the southeastern edge of campus. Every step through the gardens took us to a new biome, from the Mediterranean to Hawaii in the tropics to Australia.
As he excitedly pointed out the tree families that we were to know for our final, we began to panic slightly. How would I be able to look at the leaf structure of a tree and immediately know that it was of the Araucariaceae family? As his helpful hints began to sink in (“Are the leaves opposite or alternate, simple or compound? Is there latex?”), I thought about how lucky we were to have this amazing resource right on campus. I may groan and whine that it’s on the opposite corner of campus in relation to Sage Hill (a small but important plot of land behind The Hill where many species native to the UCLA campus still exist today) where we are doing our field work, but I am secretly glad that we have an entire garden through which we can trek to reinforce our understandings of what we’re learning in class. The clear signs on each tree and shrub, detailing its family, genus, species, and range will prove to be immensely helpful in our studying. Best of all, visiting the garden costs absolutely nothing, and arranging a group tour is free as well! What a great resource for the cash-strapped college student.