Close Memorial Park
Blooming flowers and ornamental shrubs greet visitors at the parking lot of Close Memorial Park and lead them away from Springfield’s urban bustle. A paved path takes them to Anne Drummond Lake, where calming views of swimming waterfowl and perhaps a great blue heron wading at the well-manicured lake’s far end help visitors unwind from the day’s tensions.
The 54-acre park offers more than relaxation and escape, however. This city-owned park also serves as an arboretum, so it’s a great place to learn about the trees of Missouri.
Arboretums are places where many varieties of trees and shrubs are grown for exhibition or study. The primary purpose of the arboretum at Close Park is to educate visitors about the tree species that have called Missouri home since pre-settlement days. Many of the native species growing there are marked with signs providing information about the tree’s characteristics, preferred habitats and, in some cases, historical uses.
“People are always asking questions about trees,” said C. Major Close, son of the park’s namesake—Cephas Major Close—and an active volunteer at the arboretum. “They can come here [to the park] and this tells them something about trees.”
A sign by a shagbark hickory in the north part of the park, for example, reveals that this species was once used for wagon-wheel spokes and hubs. A sign accompanying a broad-trunked shingle oak tucked away on the east end of Close Park tells visitors how our pioneer forefathers commonly used these trees as a source of shingles for their buildings.
Not every sign gives a history lesson; one can also learn about the diversity of Missouri’s forested terrain. Seventeen types of oak trees native to Missouri are represented at the arboretum. All the information together tells the important story of Missouri’s landscape.
“A lot of our history is coming through in this arboretum,” said Springfield-Greene County Director of Parks Jodie Adams. “It’s important that we never lose focus of the native resources that truly developed our park lands and our natural areas. The arboretum is a very important part of our parks system.”
Native Tree Collection
The arboretum contains more than 60 native species, some of which are represented by more than one tree and a lesser number of non-native ornamentals. The precise number of trees at the park fluctuates due to ongoing plantings and natural losses, like those that resulted from the January 2007 ice storm.
“I do not know of another city park in this