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Campus & Community

What Do ‘Yew’ Know About UMD Trees?

Go Out on a Limb to Guess the Oldest, Tallest and Most Delicious

By Karen Shih ’09

trees on McKeldin Mall

The University of Maryland has been named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the past 15 years, honoring UMD’s commitment to campus forest management and environmental stewardship. The entire campus is an arboretum and botanical garden, and has been internationally accredited at the highest level (ArbNet Level 4), one of only 39 recognized globally.

Photo by John T. Consoli

As you head to a study session or to grab a bubble tea, branch out from your usual phone-gazing to appreciate the leafy specimens arching over your path.

They’re part of a massive community of nearly 10,000 trees (part of a collection of 16,000 botanical specimens) growing across the University of Maryland’s 1,340-acre campus. They not only provide great spots for a shady re-tree-t or a picnic, but also absorb carbon dioxide that warms the planet, capture air and water pollution, conserve energy by shading buildings, and provide a home for UMD’s many squirrels, hawks, pollinators and other wildlife.

They’re spruced up and cared for by the UMD Arboretum and Horticultural Services team, led by Assistant Director Karen Petroff. “An arboretum is basically a museum for trees,” she said, so her team cares for and plants examples from around the world, such as redwoods, the tallest trees on earth, in addition to Maryland-native species like oaks and black gum. “It’s important to represent biodiversity and provide a comprehensive teaching collection for UMD students.”

Stately sycamores and magnificent maples also have served as important teaching tools since the university’s founding.

“Going back to the early days to the Maryland Agricultural College, students learned from trees: how to design with them, prune them and how to manage an orchard,” Petroff said. Today, plant science and landscape architecture students most frequently examine the same trees that have endured for decades, but many programs, such as journalism, computer science and theater, go out on a limb to incorporate campus greenery into their projects.

Record-keeping has varied—the fire of 1912 took out early records, and not all files were digitized this century—but the Arboretum staff can estimate the age of all of its specimens, from centuries old to saplings planted around new buildings like Thurgood Marshall Hall.

As existing trees fall to storms, construction or disease, the Arboretum team is now looking to climate change-resilient options from southern habitats that will stand the test of time and create an unbe-leaf-ably beautiful campus for years to come.

See if you get stumped by this UMD tree-via:

Download text file for Tree quiz
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