Written by Jack Oberg, ESLLC 2017-2018
The Chester M Alter arboretum Is a collection of over 2000 trees on our University of Denver campus, representing almost 300 species of trees, and a variety of bushes and shrubs. Although it has only been recognized as an arboretum since 1999, many of the larger trees have existed on campus for a long time; in 1965, Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady of the United States at the time, planted an oak tree in the Harper Humanity Gardens. Some of the trees in the collection are state champions, meaning that they are the largest of their species in the state, such a tree is the eastern wahoo on the north end of the MacFarlane wing of the Jmac residence hall, or the yellow buckeye on the west side of Mary Reed.
This spring the LLC has been working on installing exhibits in the Anderson Academic Commons library, with a focus on sustainability in higher education. My group chose to highlight the arboretum because of the physical connection it has with the university and to higher education, and the imagery of trees used throughout the sustainability community. Trees do a whole lot for us humans, they provide us with shade, they color our landscapes in vibrant greens, and most importantly, they take our carbon and give us oxygen to breathe. One tree can make about 250 pounds of oxygen in a year, that multiplied by 2000 gives us around 5000000 pounds of oxygen produced by the trees on campus in a given year. Of course, this number pales in comparison to the carbon footprint of the university as a whole, but it’s something, and to us, it was worth including in the LLC’s collection of exhibits.
We decided to use a huge map of campus with the locations of all of the trees on campus highlighted in order to emphasize the often overlooked, but overwhelming number of trees in the arboretum. Stemming off of the map are profiles for three of the seven champion specimens contained in the collection. We chose the eastern wahoo, the yellow buckeye, and the crab apple trees to emphasize because these were our favorites out of the champions. For each of these trees, we had leaf presses and an original art piece. By creating this exhibit, we hope to make people notice the beautiful trees on campus, and to appreciate all that the trees do for us. If we can make people appreciate trees on campus, chances are they will also start to notice trees wherever they go, and that could foster a better appreciation for nature. It’s a stretch, but if we can make even one person think before they use more paper than they need, or toss a receipt out the window of their car, we’ll be happy.