Melissa Burdick


Melissa Burdeck is a story-teller who brings to life the plants that surround us, both common and rare. A self-described “plant nerd,” Melissa’s passion for growing both plants and communities shines through as the executive director of The Brenton Arboretum in Dallas Center, IA.

In her responsibility as a Firesoul, Melissa works to inspire visitors at The Brenton Arboretum to feel excited and informed about the natural world of trees. She feels especially fulfilled when she can provide a visitor their “aha” moment when learning about trees and nature. Planting the seeds of nature knowledge in others is simply what she does best.

The Brenton Arboretum is a non-profit museum and public garden dedicated to trees and shrubs. On the grounds of the arboretum, visitors can enjoy over 2,200 different trees and shrubs representing 486 species, hybrids and cultivars. With the diverse spectrum of trees and shrubs, Melissa strives to overcome the “plant-blindness” that she finds prevalent among people today.

“A walk through The Brenton Arboretum isn’t just a nice walk in a park… it’s a walk through an amazing and diverse collection of trees that have so much to teach us about the natural world we live in!”

Melissa takes pride in providing The Brenton Arboretum as a space for people to feel emotionally and psychologically restored. Providing a place of quiet enjoyment has been one of the main goals of the institution since its establishment. Melissa’s reverence and dedication to education makes the tranquility of The Brenton Arboretum possible.
“Whenever I feel my inspiration lagging, I just need to learn the history of a tree that I hadn’t learned about before. Without a doubt, even the most mundane species has a story to tell. It’s like making friends with a wallflower, then I get excited to share how wonderful my new friend is with everyone I know.”

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My Sacred Place


Brenton Arboretum

A place of peace, quiet and solitude, the Brenton Arboretum is dedicated to inspiring joy through the beauty and knowledge of the natural world of trees to its growing number of visitors.

Meet Another Firesoul


Fred Smith

It’s not every day that you mail someone a 208 page book, they read it, and then they call you up to say, “I’m in.” But this is exactly what happened with Fred Smith, Director, Stringfellow Health Fund Grants at the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama. A copy of our book, Open Spaces, Sacred Places,...

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