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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. Unlike much of the flat, pine-covered Midlands of South Carolina, the 10-acre W. Gordon Belser Arboretum is a collection of plant communities consisting of ten different biomes (habitats), a waterfall and a Botanical Garden and many unique Exhibits.

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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 Department of Biological Sciences, at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC.  Mr. Belser specified that the unique site should be used as an arboretum: a collection of trees or native plant communities for use in teaching and research by the University faculty and students.

             In the next four decades after the donation, residential and commercial development swallowed up almost all areas of undisturbed forest within city limits. At the same time, the ecology movement was growing throughout the world. Outdoor teaching facilities were urgently needed to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of environmental students at the University of South Carolina. Therefore, a Restoration of the Arboretum was started in 2006 by students and faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences.

          The mission of the Arboretum includes three main objectives:

  1. Preservation of a pristine native urban forest within metropolitan Columbia;
  2. Providing opportunities for outdoor undergraduate environmental classes, as well as hands-on volunteer work experience for undergraduates with ecology interests;  
  3. Promoting neighborhood outreach activities on conservation issues