Penn’s verdant campus celebrated during month of April

At the heart of Penn’s campus on the popular College Green sits a massive 135-year-old American elm. The tree is a descendent of the original “Treaty Elm” under which William Penn signed a peace agreement with the Lenape Indians in 1683.

The American elm is just one of the more than 6,500 trees that help beautify the University’s urban campus, along with dozens of gardens and parks.

Penn is committed to the environment and to our landscape and our trees,” says Robert Lundgren, University landscape architect in the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES). “Its commitment dates back to when Ian McHarg, a landscape architect and one of the founders of Earth Day, was a professor here.”

Penn’s promise to plan, grow, care for, and raise awareness and education around trees has recently earned the University recognition as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the seventh year in a row.

Events to celebrate the acknowledgment are taking place throughout April, and include lectures, tours on campus, and the launch of the Penn Plant Explorer website.

The interactive website is linked to the University’s comprehensive tree inventory, and allows users to locate and learn about significant trees, specialty gardens, urban parks, and edible plants throughout campus. It’s the first time the public will have the opportunity to easily access this information.

“We’ve also curated 10 different nature tours on the website, which you can follow on your own,” says Chloe Cerwinka, landscape planner at FRES.

On Earth Day, Friday, April 22, there will be a ceremonial tree planting starting at 11:30 a.m. outside of Claudia Cohen Hall of a unique specimen tree—the Prunus “Helen Taft”—that was collected by the Morris Arboretum.

“It’s a descendent of the original cherry trees that were gifted from Japan to the U.S. and exist on the Washington Mall,” says Lundgren. “President William Taft’s wife, Helen, planted them [in 1912].”

Following the planting will be two, half hour-long campus tours—one that looks at trees and the other that looks at gardens and parks. Interested participants can sign up here.

“We’ll talk about our Treaty Elm—the biggest and most significant tree on campus—as well as the ash trees, London plane trees, and the zelkovas on Locust Walk,” says Lundgren. “For the gardens and parks tour, we’ll do a tour of College Green, talk about how it evolved, and then discuss some of the significant gardens like the Shakespeare garden, the dogwood garden, and more.”

Hopefully the events will showcase hidden spots on campus that people might not know about, Lundgren says.

“It’s a campus with a lot of diversity,” he says. “If you love to run, go to Penn Park, run a loop and cover miles. If you don’t want to do that, go sit next to a blooming tree in the Shakespeare garden or the BioPond, an intimate, passive spot.”

Being a public campus, Lundgren adds, makes it “something we give back to the city.”

Tree Campus