Tree planting marks start of

Emily Dalnodar

The St. Paul campus just got a bit greener.
A group of University students and staff members planted the first in a long line of trees on the campus Friday in celebration of Arbor Day.
The ceremonial tree planting outside of Green Hall kicked off the Student Society of Arboriculture’s plan to re-wood a strip of land on Buford Circle in May — Arbor Month.
This is the first time the group has organized such an initiative. With financial help from the Foster-Wheeler grant, group members purchased 24 trees from Tree Trust, a state and federally funded program.
The variety of trees include bicolored oak, hornbeam, white pine and spruce. All are native to the land they will cover.
Now a sparse mingling of trees and bushes, the targeted section used to boast a wealth of oaks and pine. Students in the past referred to it as “the spine,” because it extended in a column along Gortner Circle.
Over the years, non-native plant species killed off much of the wooded area, leaving only a small section. Though Friday’s ceremonial tree made its home on Green Hall’s lawn, just up the hill from the sparse woods, students plan to connect the area with the rest of the trees next month.
Depending on the success of this year’s program, the student-run group might receive another grant next year to continue its work.
“It’d be nice if we could (extend the program), we’ve got the room to do some planting,” said Ben Johnson, College of Natural Resources senior and former group president.
University Grounds Service officials — who approved the grant — will take part in some maintenance, said Gary Johnson, associate professor of forest resources. Though expectations fall on students to water and prune the trees, grounds officials plan to take up the slack this summer when students aren’t around.
In addition to efforts by the arboricultural society, students from the Forestry Club sold saplings Friday outside the St. Paul Student Center. People could opt to plant their choice of conifer or hardwood in the spine area or take them home.
Forestry Club members also sold saplings native to the area. The selection included sugar maple, black walnut, black cherry, basswood and highbush cranberry.
Arboricultural members, along with professor Johnson, cleared out weeds and foreign plant species from the woods to make way for the native saplings.
“We’re leaving a lot of stuff we cut down for more of a wildlife habitat,” professor Johnson said of the piles of branches and leaves. With debris left in the woods, the area takes on the setting of a real forest, he said.
In addition to clearing foreign foliage, students planted shrubs and wildflowers for a natural-looking forest floor.
“I hope (the tree) survives,” said Shawn Markham, CNR senior and member of the arboriculture group. “If I come back to campus in 10 years, I’d like to see it.”