Campus Community

Planting Our Way to Tree Campus USA

Written by Janice Murphy

April 13, 2017

A student reading in a hammock at the Quad

Image credit: Yosef Kalinko

SU will welcome a new grove of trees to the Quad.

Honoring our Past to Inform our Future, our Mission Day theme, has associations in the Grounds Department this spring. I was recently reflecting on how our upcoming project is an embodiment of those words.

Our campus grounds are known far and wide for the magnificent trees that we walk beneath. We can be thankful to a few individuals from decades’ past for having the foresight and drive to provide this living legacy. I have written in the past about those individuals, about all the benefits that we receive from our trees, the ecosystem services they provide and about the emotional and spiritual uplift that they offer us. But the urban forest is a living, dynamic system that needs the continuous care and attention of humankind to be all that for the generations to come.

One way to insure that this happens is to meet benchmarks for securing and caring for our campus green space. Tree Campus USA, a program of the Arbor Day Foundation, provides an excellent framework for this work. Shannon Britton, Grounds manager, has been working through the five standards for certification as a Tree Campus USA. One of those standards includes a service-learning project, involving students on campus. Another standard is to observe and celebrate Arbor Day.

We are able to meet those standards through two circumstances, one unfortunate and the other a happy one. The need to remove four failing Cherry trees from the landscape south of the Quad was a painful task. Those trees provided a beautiful display of spring blossoms, and had solid, substantial trunks that have been sequestering carbon for more than 30 years. But disease and insect pests had taken a toll on their vigor and they were in a slow decline. Albert Einstein’s quote 'In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity' is apt here. The opportunity is to replace the four trees with 10 trees of six different species and create a grove of healthy, species-diverse, pollinator-friendly trees.

Our happy circumstance provides the opportunity to work with a group of students in an engaging and exciting new way. On April 18, 16 students in Brenda Bourns’ BIOL UCOR class will experience the work of planting a tree and beginning a legacy of their own. As part of their lab work, these students have taken on the task of researching the six different species to be planted in the green space south of the quad. Working in groups, they are posing a research question, collecting data and preparing a report that will inform the Grounds Department of some aspect of the impact of the newly planted trees.

Later in the week, on April 21, as our Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration, the Grounds crew will finish up with planting the remaining four trees, completing the new grove. And so begins another chapter in the changing urban forest on our campus.

Stop by to watch the process and learn about the ways that trees make our world greener and our lives richer.

South Quad

Tuesday, April 18, 1:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

Friday, April 21, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Janice Murphy is integrated pest management coordinator in the Grounds Department and a regular contributor to The Commons.