Washington University in St. Louis’ goal is to foster human and environmental health through low impact, resilient landscapes that provide an array of ecosystem services.


In the last five years, dozens of sustainable landscape projects have been completed at the university. The Danforth Campus, which has long been known for its beautiful park-like landscapes and iconic tree allees, is integrating native and adaptive plantings throughout, significantly expanding biodiversity and creating green infrastructure to naturally manage stormwater.

Sections of turf grass have been replaced with native and adaptive planting beds that require little or no irrigation and reduce the need for mowing. Rain gardens and bioswales have been installed in many drainage zones to slow and filter stormwater. Pervious pavers create solid walking and bike parking surfaces while allowing water to percolate into the ground instead of draining to over-burdened sewers.

The university is now home to four large green roofs: the School of Medicine’s Hope Plaza, the South 40 House back lawn, the McMillan Hall addition and the Lofts off-campus student housing.

Hope Plaza

Hope PlazaThe School of Medicine’s Ellen S. Clark Hope Plaza re-creates the wild, self-sustaining habitat of a native Missouri woodland, with an infinity fountain as a serene centerpiece. Native, perennial plants self-cultivate each year and naturally crowd out weeds. Drought-resistant plants significantly reduce water use and no pesticides are used. Significant portions of Hope Plaza are actually a green roof, situated over an underground loading dock.



Campus Foliage

The Danforth Campus developed a Tree Framework Plan in 2013 that guides the university’s goal to double the campus tree canopy and expansion of tree species diversity over the next 20 years. Major progress is well under way with nearly 1,000 trees planted at the university since 2008. Students and staff have the opportunity to participate through annual planting days. As a result of these efforts and more, the Danforth Campus has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation each year since 2010.

16% of the campus is covered with tree canopy.

Canopy 2014 – 16%

35% of the campus is covered with tree canopy.

Canopy 2035 – 35%

Succession Planting

Logo for landscapeIncreasing overall canopy cover over time will help mitigate the heat island effect, improve building performance through shading and wind calming, provide more comfortable outdoor spaces for social interaction, and improve habitat for birds, pollinators and mammals. Succession planting requires planning for new trees over longer periods of time to avoid having many trees replaced at the same time.




Both the Danforth and School of Medicine campuses have partnered with greenway builder Great Rivers Greenway to plan regional bicycle and pedestrian paths through our campuses. The Centennial Greenway on the Danforth Campus is complete. The Chouteau Greenway on the Medical Campus is in the planning stage.

Hillman Hall Landscape

Hillman Hall LandscapeThe Hillman Hall south landscape is the most extensive sustainable landscape project yet at Washington University. The plants selected for the site are largely native species and include 69 trees, 578 shrubs, and approximately 26,000 perennials, grasses and sedges of which 70 percent are native.

A large bioretention basin is designed to slow and filter sediment and pollutants from on-site stormwater runoff before percolating into native soils. Five benches onsite were made from regionally salvaged wood — four from white oak trees fallen during high winds and one from a walnut tree pulled from the Missouri river. The site also includes two bike parking nodes with pervious pavers that support active, low-carbon transportation.


Logo for landscapeThe university’s Tyson Research Center is a 2,000 acre oak-hickory forest 30 minutes west of the Danforth Campus that serves as a landscape-scale laboratory for ecosystem sustainability.

Faculty and student research at Tyson is influencing sustainable landscape approaches at the university and in the City of St. Louis through exciting interdisciplinary partnerships.

Learn About the Center »


Discover the trees of WashU’s certified arboretum through a virtual or self guided tour.

Arbor Walk »