Published: March 1, 2015

campus building and trees

A Tree For Every Season

The CU-Boulder campus isn’t formally an arboretum, but it might as well be: At least 120 tree species grow on the 305-acre main property.

Among them are linden and locust, catalpa and Kentucky coffee, white fir, blue spruce and green ash, bur oak, box elder and American elm — an estimated 3,000 individual trees in all.

Vince Aquino, CU-Boulder’s lead arborist, is acquainted with most of them and has reached the top of many, including the tallest and oldest, the 110-foot plains cottonwood behind Old Main. It dates to 1879 or 1880.

“That was quite a day,” he says of his trip to the top on a platform lift.

Given the cottonwood’s extreme age, it’s holding up well, he says.

Still, to prepare for the inevitable, Aquino and his deputy, Joel Serafin, are working with campus landscape architect Richelle Reilly to plant fresh shade trees that will grow into the regal botanical wonders of the future.

Helping shape CU’s urban forest for decades to come is humbling work, Aquino says.

“What this place is going to look like in 50 and 100 years is really inspiring,” he says. “I feel lucky to have the type of job that I have.”

Photography by Casey A. Cass, Glenn Asakawa, University of Colorado