Daly Arboretum showcases more than 500 trees

    The Daly Mansion Arboretum is home to century-plus old trees, plus new plantings that offer a continuing diversity of species and color. It may surprise visitors to learn how many non-native trees flourish here. In our 'Montana Moment' we explore the mix of trees that make up what's been called a "priceless gift."

    In our 'Montana Moment' NBC Montana explores the Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum near Hamilton.

    The arboretum includes trees from 30 different genera and 60 different species.

    It might surprise you to learn how many non-native trees are flourishing at this landmark arboretum.

    Anyone who passes by the mansion can't help but notice the century-old Sugar maples that line the lane into the mansion grounds.

    They are especially stunning in the fall.

    Board Certified Master Arborist Sylvia McNeill, gave NBC Montana an extensive tour of the arboretum where there is a mix of old and new trees.

    Sylvia walks the long lane where most of the Sugar maples are in full color.

    "This is the main allees coming into the Daly Mansion from East Side Highway," she said. "People flock here every year to see the color."

    If you can't make up your mind which fall color you like best the Sugar works to please everybody.

    " Everything from a dark red color to yellow," said Sylvia. "And that will change as the season progresses."

    Nestled in the row of Sugar maples is a newcomer to the block.

    The arborist points to a tree whose green leaves have turned a bright magenta.

    The Autumn Blaze has only been on the market since the 1960's.

    "It's a natural hybrid that was discovered in the wild," said Sylvia. "It's a cross between the Silver maple and the Red maple.

    As you move into the grounds you can't miss the proud old Eastern cottonwood.

    To get a full shot of its size you have to position your camera a long way back.

    Sylvia stands next to the giant tree and from our camera's vantage point you can barely see her.

    "This wonderful tree is approximately 8-foot in diameter and 120-feet tall," she said." It's the signature tree. If you walk by this guy it's going to catch your attention."

    On the drive leading directly to the mansion's front door there is a line of American lindens.

    These beautiful trees are both medicinal and functional.

    In its history the linden's hard wood made carriages and musical instruments.

    "These trees bloom in June and they have this wonderful aromatic blossom," said Sylvia. "They also attract bees which produce honey as well."

    In the arboretum there are Silver maples, Norway Maples and Silver Poplars.

    That's just a short list.

    Many of these trees have graced the grounds for more than a century.

    You wouldn't think many of them would grow in Montana.

    "The American sycamore," said Sylvia, "was really a surprise to see."

    The sycamore is a huge tree on the west end of the arboretum.

    "We have one American sycamore," said Sylvia. "It's really old and isn't doing very well."

    But she picked up several leaves the old tree dropped this season.

    They are the size of dinner plates.

    "These leaves are fantastic," she said. "They're huge and they're very distinctive."

    "We move to the south corner of the arboretum where Sylvia points out two giant evergreens.

    "We have two of the largest Austrian pines," she said.

    And we come to a new tree that was just planted a few years ago.

    It's a Tulip Tree.

    " It's leaves look like the outline of a tulip," said Sylvia.

    The arborist said almost all the trees in the arboretum are not native to Montana.

    She said that goes for the trees most of us plant in our yards.

    Montana's native trees are pretty limited, she said.

    She mentioned a few.

    There are Douglas fir in the hills, aspen in specific drainages and Black cottonwoods on the river bottoms, she said. And of course lots of Ponderosa pines (Montana's state tree.)

    She brought us to a Paper birch where the morning light had highlighted its brilliant fall yellow color.

    "The paper birch is unique in that it is native," she said.

    Pointing to its papery white bark she said,"it's wonderful."

    By bringing in non-native trees to mix with natives in the arboretum, she said, " we're getting the diversity of color."

    She said to create a more diverse arboretum they've planted new trees to mix with the old.

    On the north end of the grounds she takes us to three new youngsters that were planted near each other.

    These trees should have a long life.

    "This is a Northern red oak," she said. "A Boy Scout troop planted it on one of our Arbor Days. They wanted to plant a tree that was going to last a long time. They wanted longevity. "

    There are other young evergreens on the grounds.

    "This is a Picea Glauca Pendula, a White spruce," she said. "The cultivar is called a Pendula because its leaves are going to droop."

    While NBC was learning more about the trees at the Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum several visitors came to walk the grounds.

    There was a young couple planning their wedding.

    Darby High School student Donavon Chaffin was having his senior portrait taken under one of the Sugar maples.

    The Daly Mansion's Arboretum is a place to record important moments in its visitors lives, or just to walk around in.

    "It's a peaceful place," said Sylvia. "It's priceless. Literally priceless."

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