Washington University in St. Louis is proud to announce that it has recently been re-certified as a “Tree Campus USA” for its commitment to encouraging students and university personnel to care for our planet’s tree resources. Tree Campus USA is an initiative through the Arbor Day Foundation that has recognized 333 other universities for their dedication to their campus environment. To be recognized, college campuses must meet five standards: creating a Tree Campus Advisory Committee, creating a Campus Tree Care Plan, creating a campus tree Funding Program, holding an Arbor Day observance, and completing a Service Learning Project. Recognized Tree Campus USA since 2010, the Danforth campus is meeting these criteria and beyond.
Kent Theiling, Grounds Manager and Horticulturist for Danforth Campus, recognizes the importance of a healthy tree ecosystem. With his Grounds Services team, Kent is doing an incredible job managing the campus forest, which offers a variety of ecosystem services that we benefit from every day. Trees help shade campus walkways, sequester carbon from the air, reduce the urban heat island effect, provide habitat for native species and food for pollinators, increase building performance, and create more comfortable outdoor spaces for us to enjoy. The following profile highlights some of the initiatives that helped Washington University earn recognition from Tree Campus USA.
Relocation of Trees from the East End
The Danforth Campus landscape has shown resiliency and adaptation in the face the disturbance from a massive construction project. Although the iconic pin oaks in Brookings Allee were removed for East End construction, 55 other trees were relocated from the East End to other parts of campus. This includes 25 different tree species between 8’-12’ tall and totaling 165 caliper inches. The Oak Allee in front of Olin Library and behind Graham Chapel features an additional six trees (80 percent more) that replaced older, dying trees.
A Growing Tree Canopy
A Tree Framework Plan has helped guide the University to upholding its commitment to tree care since its establishment in 2013. Its primary aim is to increase the campus tree canopy cover from a 16 percent baseline to 35 percent cover and expand tree species diversity over a period of 20 years. Succession planting of trees is included in the Tree Framework Plan for the planting of new trees over long periods of time to avoid the loss of many trees at once.
Annual Tree Planting Event
Since 2008 over 1,000 trees have been planted on campus with opportunities for students and faculty to get involved through an annual planting day. This year, about 20 volunteers, staff and students, gathered to contribute to WashU tree planting efforts. After a short educational session and demonstration led by Kent Theiling, the group planted 12 2’ caliper trees around Mudd field and Graham Chapel, resulting in the completion of Phase I of the Campus Tree Planting Plan. By planting trees, participants have helped shape Danforth’s evolution and history. David Dresner, CEO of Sleeve a Message and the creator/sponsor of the event, remembers the trees he has planted over the past four annual tree planting events:
“The trees follow my life here in St. Louis and each spring when the trees bloom, I feel a sense of renewal and take the opportunity to get excited about the upcoming year.”
The management and care of campus trees is a delicate process that Washington University in St. Louis has taken in stride. Take a moment to celebrate this commitment to tree health and habitat as you pass under the canopies covering your walk on campus this week.