Trails of the New World

The hiking trails in the American part of the arboretum start at the main entrance located on Vlaktedreef.

Blue trail through Western America

This walk takes us across the evergreen wonderland of the American Far West. We descend slowly, from north to south, along the Pacific Coast of the United States, from Alaska, through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon all the way to California, then turn north again along the Rocky Mountains. The forests of the American Far West consist mainly of coniferous species that soar above the surrounding vegetation the closer we get to the coastal areas. These are real rainforests. In addition to various types of spruce, pine and silver fir, typical species such as Douglas fir, hemlock and Western red cedar dominate here.

Both the Giant sequoia and the California redwood vie for the honor of being California’s most famous tree. The Coast redwood is the world-record holder with the tallest known tree in the world, a colossus that measures more than 115 meters. The Giant sequoia from the Sierra Nevada, for its part, happens to be the most voluminous tree in the world, with a behemoth trunk that can grow as thick as 10 meters. There is, by the way, a striking group of trees near these California giants: The spine-clad Araucarias or so-called Monkey Puzzle trees. They are endemic to the Andes mountains of central Chile, and thus they are an exception in this part of the arboretum because they do not naturally occur in North America.

The tree species of the Rocky Mountains are very similar to those found on the Pacific Coast Mountains, but a few differences in shape and color may be noted: As regards the Lodgepole pine found in the Rocky Mountains, for instance, we can observe broader and twisted needle-like leaves, whereas the Sierra Lodgepole Pine grows needle-like leaves that are shorter and more rigid. Blue Douglas fir and Colorado fir predominate in the Rocky Mountains, whereas Douglas fir and Giant silver fir are more at home in the Coast Mountains.

Green trail through Eastern America

The dark green trail also goes from north to south and back through the species-rich deciduous and coniferous forests of the Eastern part of the American continent. We start with a visit to the Northern Canadian taiga, with impressive forests of spruce, pine and birch, which due to the harsh taiga climate reach only small dimensions. Interestingly, these trees grow slightly larger in Tervuren, but they do not have a long lifespan here. Wandering across the coastal areas of New England and New Jersey we arrive in the Carolinas with their milder climate, where we turn around and journey on to the Mississippi and Ohio river basins, and onwards across the Appalachian Mountains, all the way north to the Great Lakes region in south eastern Canada.    

The forests of Eastern America are much richer in species than European forests. Growing abundantly under nearly sixty species of oak are a dozen maple species, and species of genera that are hardly known in Europe, such as hickory or bitternut (Carya), tupelo (Nyssa), sweetgum (Liquidambar) and tulip tree (Liriodendron). This multitude of species contributes to the bright colors of late summer, the so-called Indian Summer.