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Native Plants and Compton Days

Compton Gardens Trail
Compton Gardens Trail

Did you know that Crystal Bridges is neighbors with the Compton Gardens and Arboretum? In fact, if you were to walk to the museum from downtown Bentonville via the trails, your journey would begin on the Compton Trail. 

Dr. Neil Ernest Compton (1912-1999) of Bentonville owned a parcel of land near downtown Bentonville that included the historic Crystal Spring area south of the museum. In 1978, Compton sold this parcel of land to the Walton family, and Crystal Spring and the hillside where he cultivated native plants have subsequently become part of Crystal Bridges’ 120-acre grounds.

Each year, the Gardens celebrate Dr. Compton’s legacy with a week of activities called Dr. Compton Days. This year, celebrations kick off on Monday, August 2, and will continue throughout the week with trail activities, garden tours, free ice cream, and more, fun for all ages! 

Dr. Neil Compton tends to a flowering bush
Dr. Neil Compton

To celebrate Dr. Compton Days, let’s take a look at some of the native plants you can discover along the Compton Gardens Trail:

yellow coneflower

Visit the meadow in Compton Gardens to see a field of yellow coneflower. This is an important part of the garden because it’s listed as threatened in the state of Arkansas.

With leaves and branches that deer avoid, and fruit that is loved by all, the pawpaw tree is a fascinating native tree. Don’t forget to look up! The pawpaw fruit begins to ripen in late summer and peaks in September and October. The flavor of pawpaw fruit is often compared to bananas, but with hints of mango, vanilla, and citrus.

paw paw tree
sea oats

Sea oats work to help erosion control in the garden with deep roots that help stabilize the land. These plants are heat tolerant and highly resistant to drought.

A native to the eastern United States, purple coneflowers are found in many flower gardens. Planting purple coneflower in the garden or flower bed draws bees and butterflies, ensuring that nearby plants have plenty of pollinators.

purple coneflower

Want to continue your exploration of Dr. Compton’s work at Crystal Bridges? Take a walk down the Compton Trail until you arrive at the south entrance of the museum. Once you arrive, check out Dr. Compton’s Letter Rack by David Esterly, a work made entirely out of wood, on view in the Contemporary Art Gallery. The piece contains several objects on a similar “letter rack” that were a reflection of the life of Dr. Neil Compton including a camera, log book, a map of Crystal Spring, and a “Save the Buffalo River” banner. It was Esterly’s final work before his passing in 2019.