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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences

Photo of W. Belser Arboretm Gate

W. Gordon Belser Arboretum-Home

The W. Gordon Belser Arboretum is a nature preserve located within Columbia, South Carolina. The site features a tremendously diverse physiography for its size. Within its ten acres are eleven different habitats and their associated plant and animal communities.

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The Belser Arboretum is a forest sanctuary in metropolitan Columbia, South Carolina that preserves diverse native plant communities. The tract was gifted in 1959 by W. Gordon Belser to the University of South Carolina. Mr. Belser specified that the unique site should be used as an arboretum and a sanctuary for plants and animals for the benefit and instruction of the University’s students in Biology. 

In the four decades after the donation, residential and commercial development swallowed up almost all areas of undisturbed forest within Columbia’s city limits. During this time, the Arboretum property was largely neglected, and the site was overrun with invasive vines and many exotic weeds. With a rapidly increasing number of environmental students at the University of South Carolina, outdoor teaching facilities were urgently needed, and therefore, a restoration of the Arboretum was started in 2006 by students and faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences.