The Centenary College Arboretum was established by action of the Campus Improvement Committee in 1984. With the backing of Mr. And Mrs. Harry Balcom and the guidance of Dr. Ed Leuck in the Biology Department, construction of the upper pond dam and the installation of a sprinkler system and paths were undertaken in the fall of 1984. The initial area was only the west-facing clay slope below the brick wall below Mickle and Hamilton Hall, chosen both for its prominent location and lack of any vegetation except for the trees themselves. The first plantings were made by Dr. Ed Leuck in the spring of 1985 utilizing the few plants commercially available. Since then, plants have been added each year. The sources have largely included plants and seeds collected by Dr. Leuck. These plants are still being generated and may be seen in the enclosure just east of the Centenary Square parking lot. Other major sources have been the Caroline Dorman Nature Center near Saline, local growers Jack and Ella Price, Walter B. Jacobs Nature Park, and a native plant nursery in South Carolina. There are now over 300 species of labeled plants in the Arboretum.
The existing canopy consists of the surviving trees from the time of Centenary's move to Shreveport in 1909; many of these are past maturity and in decline. The larger trees are at least 125 years old. These include white oak, southern red oak, loblolly pine post oak, and sweet gum. In the past five years, the Arboretum area alone has lost 2-3 post oaks per year to oak wilt. The Arboretum plantings are intended to eventually replace these trees, while displaying the tremendous diversity of Louisiana and southeastern native species. Emphasis has been placed on trees and shrubs first. In the past five years, now that growth potential for larger specimens is clear, there has been an attempt to add a significant herbaceous under-story plant component. The collection is maintained by Dr. Leuck in the Biology Department, with student help from botany classes. The collection is intended to serve both an aesthetic purpose in campus beautification of a previously poorly vegetated area, and a teaching purpose for Centenary classes as well as the Shreveport community.
The Arboretum has undergone two expansions. In 1992, the area to the southeast toward the old Haynes Gym was added. The addition of the drainage basin coming from between the Student Union Building and Rotary Hall, and the digging of the lower pond occurred in 1996, subsequent to a recommendation by a commissioned campus master plan. Adding vegetation to the drainage basins has slowed runoff and limited erosion of the clay hills feeding them. Many of the plantings and most of the construction of the pond and paths has been done by Centenary students, especially those in Biology 201(Botany) in the fall semesters. A major effort this year will be to repair damage and replace plants lost due to Haynes Gym construction work.