The Lost Forest
The Lost Forest, also called the experimental forest, tree plantation, or arboretum, was established around 1909 by Dr. Robert Hall. In his position as Lehigh's first biologist, he planted a tree nursery on the slopes of South Mountain in part to facilitate teaching, and later to conduct research.
Hall's teaching lab
Hall envisioned an outdoor classroom for students with diverse tree species. Five specimens of about 200 varieties of American trees were planted in the arboretum.
"In the arboretum," Hall wrote, “all sorts of trees could be quickly observed and where the various forestry procedures; seedbed, transplant beds, etc., could be demonstrated.”
A setting for forest research
Hall was doing this work as the conservation movement was taking hold. Forestry was a newly emerging profession tasked with how best to re-establish forests decimated by logging. In Pennsylvania, where 80% of the forests had vanished. Foresters had many questions about what species, and combination of species, to plant.
Dr. Hall next planted an experimental forest adjacent to the arboretum to answer these questions. The purpose of the forest was to investigate what trees grow best in the Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania. More than twenty species of trees were planted in forty-two plots spanning thirteen acres of a triangle of land. State officials and forest researchers showed considerable interest in Hall's experiment. The experimental forest was described in numerous forestry publications, touted as a unique and important investigation.
The forest is forgotten
World War I disrupted many Lehigh initiatives as the campus focus shifted to military training/war preparation. As world events took center stage, the arboretum and experimental forest were forgotten. In 2011, Lehigh ecologist Dr. Bob Booth and Special Collections Librarian Ilhan Citak rediscovered these historic places. Booth now uses these resources as a living lab for students taking ecology courses.
Brown and White articles
- Lehigh arboretum, November 4, 1910, p. 3.
- Eight to nine thousand trees for Sayre Park, March 10, 1916. p.1.
- Lehigh has a fine arboretum, January 8, 1924, p.4. x
- Grading work nearly complete, October 24, 1924, p. 2.
- Facts about Lehigh's arboretum revealed, February 15, 1935 p. 4.
- Pop tends 3,000 trees in Lehigh's own arboretum, Oct 6, 1943 p.4
- Students, faculty explore the forgotten "Lost Forest" after 50 years, September 25, 2016, p.1
- Cultivating Research, Lehigh Alumni Bulletin, Fall 2011.
- From prized arboretum to forgotten forest: A century of change, Among the stately trees blog, Dr. Bob Booth, Lehigh U.
- Excerpt on the Lehigh arboretum from Lehigh University: A History of education in engineering, business, and the human condition, p. 118, 1992.
- Lehigh has a lost forest, we wandered through. Scenes from South Mountain Tumblr account, 2016.
- Leadership gifts to the university. Lehigh University publication, 1992.
- Arboretum and tree plantation at Lehigh University, Forest Leaves, 22(4) 1929, p. 53-54.
- Forest conditions at Lehigh University, Forest Leaves, 28(8), April 1922, p. 117.
- Lehigh University tree planting, American Forestry, 1921.
- Demonstration tree planting at Lehigh University, Forest Leaves, 28(1), February 1921, p. 9.