JC Raulston Arboretum
JC Raulston Arboretum
The JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) is a public arboretum and garden created to serve three purposes; teaching, research, and extension programs. The 10.5-acre complex is located about one mile from the main campus and has 18 gardens, including the Butterfly Garden, Japanese Garden, and Paradise Garden. It has nine plant collections, which are considered the foundation of the arboretum. The plant collections include herbaceous perennials, a redbud collection, and the only dwarf loblolly pine collection in the world. In its first years, it was known as the North Carolina State University Arboretum. It was renamed in 1997 in memory of J.C. (James Chester) Raulston, a professor in the horticulture department at NC State. He was the driving force behind the creation of an arboretum and served as its first director. Raulston was born in Oklahoma and attended Oklahoma State University, graduating with a degree in agriculture. He completed his masters in horticulture at the University of Maryland and began his Ph.D., but his studies were interrupted by his U.S. Army service. He had participated in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps during his undergraduate degree and so was required to serve in the military. His service requirement was made more pressing by the beginning of the Vietnam War and in 1966 he became a member of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps. His assignment was testing herbicides, better known as “agents.” In the war against Viet Nam, the United States used agents as defoliants to reveal supply lines, and exposure to them caused devastating health problems as well as environmental damage that disproportionately affected people in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos. After his service, Raulston finished his Ph.D. and took a job teaching at the University of Bradenton in Florida and then Texas A&M University before accepting a job in the horticulture department at NC State University in 1975. According to the biography, Chlorophyll in His Veins by Bobby J. Ward, Raulston, a gay man, “was comfortable being out to many of his friends and a few colleagues [but] did not make his sexual orientation widely known.” However, in his first years at NC State, Raulston felt there was tension caused by homophobia between himself and some members of the faculty and administration. As he settled into Raleigh, he became more involved in the local gay community as well as the gay gardening community. In 1981, Raulston joined others in starting the Lavandula Society to support gay and lesbian horticulture and gardening professionals. When Raulston joined NC State in 1975, the horticulture department was growing and Raulston believed the department needed an arboretum for teaching and research. Ward writes that in 1976 James Strobel, the head of the horticulture department, created an ad-hoc committee co-chaired by Raulston and Russell Southhall, another horticulture faculty member, to explore the idea of creating an arboretum. Raulston wrote in the article, “A New Approach for Campus Arboretums,” that there was initial resistance from many faculty members who worried the arboretum would compete with their projects for funding, land and people. It took almost two years before the arboretum received full administrative approval. Despite the resistance, Raulston and other committee members began work on turning what was then known as Method Farm or Unit 4 Farm into an arboretum. Fielding Scarborough, a graduate student of Raulston in landscape architecture, created the design for the new arboretum as his master’s project. With Scarborough’s master plan in hand, in the fall of 1976, students planted the first plants at the arboretum, which Ward writes were a selection of woody plants provided by local nurseries. When plans for the arboretum began, there were few arboretums in the Southeast, and even fewer devoted to exotic plants. While there were two arboretums nearby, the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, Raulston believed there was a special need for an arboretum focused on exotic plants in the South. During his time at NC State, Raulston was involved in many international trips in which clippings were collected for the arboretum. Students and volunteers were instrumental in the creation of the arboretum and continue to be important to its operation. Especially in the early years of the arboretum, students and volunteers took part in large projects for the arboretum such as building the first visitor center. The JCRA has one of the most diverse collections of landscape plants adapted to the Southeast. Plant diversity was particularly important to Raulston. He wanted the arboretum to introduce people to new plants and to encourage southern gardeners to experiment with new plants. In order to further facilitate plant diversity outside of the arboretum they allowed members, other gardeners, and nurserymen to collect cuttings. This policy remains in place today and the number of plants distributed each year is recorded and published in the annual reports. Raulston died in 1996 in a head-on car crash which also claimed the life of 17-year-old Jonathan Bass. Upon his death, the NC State horticulture department voted unanimously to rename the arboretum after Raulston. The renaming was swiftly approved by the NC State University Board of Trustees. On its 40th anniversary the arboretum reported “there have been nearly 40,000 plants of 17,000 taxa trialed at the JC Raulston Arboretum.” Director Mark Warington wrote, “Few public gardens have had as great an impact on the field of horticulture in as short a timeframe as the JCRA. The Arboretum not only has a reputation for introducing new plants to cultivation, but perhaps more important, for introducing the right people to the right plants and getting them into production and available to the general public.” Original Source References J. C. Raulston Papers (MC 00578) Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum Newsletter Fall 2020 – Vol. 23, No. 2, https://jcra.ncsu.edu/publications/newsletters/51-vol-23-no-2/index.php. Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter Spring 2000 - Vol 4, No. 2 https://jcra.ncsu.edu/publications/newsletters/10-vol-4-no-2/10-vol-4-no-2.php. Technician (Raleigh, N.C.) (LH1.N6 T4), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. Secondary Source References Elliott, Paul, Charles Watkins, and Stephen Daniels. "'Combining Science with Recreation and Pleasure': Cultural Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Arboretums." Garden History 35 (2007): 6-27. Accessed December 22, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25472374. Hay, Amy M. Defoliation of America: Agent Orange Chemicals, Citizens, and Protest. University of Alabama Press, 2021. “‘Moonlight in the Garden’ Returns to JC Raulston Arboretum” The Pilot. Oct 10, 2019. https://www.thepilot.com/news/features/moonlight-in-the-garden-returns-to-jc-raulston-arboretum/article_90aab10a-eab5-11e9-be1f-f38c60e74195.html The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Agent Orange,” Encyclopædia Britannica. September 22, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/science/Agent-Orange. Ward, Bobby J. Chlorophyll in His Veins: J.C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador. Raleigh, N.C.: BJW Books, 2009. Weathington, Mark. Gardening in the South: The Complete Homeowner's Guide : Plant Picks, Growing Advice, Style Tips. 2017. Ward, Bobby J. “J.C. Raulston and the Green Closet,” Garden Rant, August 32, 2013. https://www.gardenrant.com/2012/08/j-c-raulston-and-the-green-closet.html.
Emma Stout, “JC Raulston Arboretum,” Brick Layers: An Atlas of New Perspectives on NC State’s Campus History, accessed October 21, 2021, https://mtan-draft.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/34.