If you're looking for a place to walk off those holiday treats, there is at least one place in town that is less crowded in this busy holiday season.
From now until Jan. 9, when classes resume, the University of Arizona campus is as tranquil as it is inviting.
The entire campus is an officially designated arboretum. The 10th anniversary of that official designation was celebrated last week.
The groves and gardens of the campus are much older than that, however. Its cactus garden dates to 1891, and its groves of olive trees were first planted in 1895.
There are no guided tours available during winter break, but the UA Campus Arboretum has a variety of self-guided tours on its website. It will even direct you to some rare trees that are in bloom right now.
The week between Christmas and New Year's would be a fine time to reacquaint yourself with the campus flora. If you've already had your fill of the Christmas rush, you could take a break today.
Here are some of our favorite spots to get you started.
• The shady groves of olive trees that line the west side of campus along North Park Avenue were planted, beginning in 1895, to learn which varieties of Mediterranean olive trees would grow best in our semi-arid climate. Robert Forbes, the first head of the UA's Agricultural Experiment Station, planted Italian, Spanish and French varieties. They are part of the University of Arizona Campus Historic District, designated in 1986. They have become a popular lunch spot for UA students and employees.
• The historic lily pond, also called the "president's pond" or "turtle pond," was installed at the direction of former UA President Homer Shantz in the yard of the president's residence sometime in the mid-1930s. The president's residence gave way to Gila residence hall, but the pond remains, just west of Park Avenue. It hosts lily pads, turtles, frogs and the occasional visit from blue herons.
• The Joseph Wood Krutch Cactus Garden is a remnant of the original campus landscape - 600 varieties of cacti and succulents planted, beginning in 1891, by UA professor James Toumey and expanded by Shantz, a botanist. The boojum trees were gathered on an expedition to Baja California in 1932 by naturalists from the Carnegie Desert Laboratory, including Godfrey Sykes, who gave them their common English name of boojum, drawn from Lewis Carroll's whimsical writings. The garden was named for famed Tucson naturalist Krutch in 1980.
• The plantings at the UA Visitor Center on East University Boulevard and North Euclid Avenue were designed by students in a water-harvesting class taught by James Riley, an associate professor of soils, water and environmental science.
They are irrigated with water collected in cisterns from the center's roof.
Check out upcoming guided tours of the UA Campus Arboretum and plan your own self-guided walks at: arboretum.arizona.edu/ tree_tours