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Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
By LeeAnn Barton

The Bible speaks in Genesis of God giving man "dominion" over the earth. Dominion sounds powerful and indeed it can be. Yet when one couples that authority with an understanding that the earth and everything in it is a gift-presented to us, not a product of our making-then "dominion" takes on an air of servitude to keep and maintain in good order the things with which we have been blessed.

"Steward: A person entrusted with the management of estates or affairs not his own", that is how my old collegiate dictionary defines the word. And that is the spirit that began Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. In a six-page letter dated August 1973, Thelma Mercer presented the dream of Harris Co., Texas purchasing the 14-acre Mercer homestead to maintain and develop as "a lovely, educational park". She expounds in the letter (the original on display at the visitor's center) genus upon species of native trees and plant, including many more varieties that she in her gardening enthusiasm and stewardship spirit added to the existing fl ora. In 1974 the deal was sealed.

Bordering Cypress Creek and divided by a four-lane thoroughfare, one would never expect such a beautiful haven in what is basically the Houston metropolis. Located in Humble, Texas, Mercer (for short) is all one would expect a botanical garden to be. No better or worse than our own Oklahoma Botanical Garden in Stillwater, Mercer by its mere location is home to an all together different array of plants.

East Texas, for those who have never visited grows TA- L-L pines; in fact it is part of what is known as Piney Woods region consisting of east Texas, northwest Louisiana, southwestern Arkansas and the very southeastern corner of Oklahoma. Rainfall is more plentiful and as one moves south, the fl ora includes tree and plant species not hardy in Oklahoma.

The Mercers had valid worries that if not protected their cherished homestead might succumb to development. A true "urban forest", in 1994 the Endangered Species Garden was founded. Working with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), Mercer protects and restores native habitat. In addition they act as a "rescue and holding center for rare plants from local and out-of-state partners" of the CPC. In our nation alone 200 plant species have become extinct and another 760 are threatened or endangered; lack of diverse gene pools weakens ecosystems.

A virtual outdoor classroom, Mercer has received awards of merit from the National Wildlife Federation, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the North American Butterfly Association. Mercer has grown into the educational outreach targeting children and adults alike with the help of a host of volunteers. A calendar of upcoming events is available at http: //themercersociety.org.

Strolling amid trees and plants may not be your family's idea of a summer getaway however, take the time to visit www.spring creekgreenway.org. Just minutes away from Mercer Arboretum, Spring Creek Greenway links together four parks providing 10 contiguous miles and 2000 acres of recreational opportunities including canoe and kayaking, horse-back riding, biking and more. This little "something for everyone", Texas getaway can be yours the price is right.

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