Published: Feb. 10, 2017

The oldest tree on CU Boulder campus

At 110 feet, this cottonwood is both the tallest and oldest tree on the CU Boulder campus, dating back to 1879 or 1880.

The Arbor Day Foundation recently awarded the University of Colorado Boulder distinction as a Tree Campus USA for the seventh year in a row.

Tree Campus USA is a national Arbor Day Foundation program launched in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Schools must meet five criteria to qualify for the honor, including maintaining a tree advisory committee, having a campus tree-care plan, dedicating annual expenditures for the tree-care program, conducting an annual Arbor Day observance and sponsoring student service-learning projects.

“We’re very pleased that our campus has earned this recognition once again,” said Vince Aquino, CU Boulder campus arborist. “It illustrates the value and importance that our campus community places on its trees.”

The CU Boulder campus is home to some 4,700 trees, not to mention several thousand more in the Boulder Creek corridor and on the largely undeveloped South Campus. The inventory includes more than 100 species, with the oldest trees dating back to the 1880s when campus was surrounded mostly by windswept plains.

Aquino said contact between his team and students has increased dramatically in recent years as outreach efforts have gained traction.

He said it’s pretty common now for first- and second-year students, particularly from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program, to reach out as they work on data-gathering projects and experiments. Aquino said he frequently helps students with the basics of identifying species and getting an idea for the range of species on campus that can be studied.

“Engaging with the students is a great way to enhance their classroom experience,” Aquino said. “We have done projects with biology students using campus trees as a tool for their training in devising experiments and collecting data. In the process, many of them have learned to identify several of the trees on campus as well as become familiar with their natural histories and characteristics. We’ve also collaborated with Environmental Design students, allowing them to participate in the design and installation of campus landscape features.”

The Arbor Day Foundation has helped campuses throughout the country plant thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $46.7 million in campus forest management last year. There are 296 campuses across the country that currently hold the designation.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”

More information about the program is available at the Tree Campus USA website.