Northeastern University celebrates Arbor Day with Boston campus tree giveaway

On the first Arbor Day, celebrated in 1872 in Nebraska, it is estimated that citizens across the state planted over 1 million trees. Since then, the holiday has spread across all 50 states as a day to care for trees and celebrate their role in our lives.

This year, Northeastern joins that celebration. As the Boston campus nears recognition as an arboretum, it will host the first Arbor Day celebration in memory this Monday to appreciate the importance of the 147 different species of trees that grow on campus.

“Our trees on campus help shade our buildings and prevent solar heat gain,” says Maria Cimilluca, who is the vice president for facilities. “They convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, and help with stormwater management by filtering rain water back into the ground. We have 147 different species of trees on campus, and they are used by faculty in some of their courses.”

In addition to their more functional aspects, the trees, which number more than 1,400, also transform the urban campus into a welcoming oasis.

“Trees are natural sculptures,” says Cimilluca. “They add a texture to the environment and help to create a sense of place and interest through texture, color, odor, and the wildlife they draw to campus.”

To celebrate the day, the facilities department will be giving away seedlings for people to plant. The giveaway will take place in the Library Quad, from 10 a.m. to noon. Six species will be available: Colorado Blue Spruce, Eastern Redbud, Bur Oak, Red Maple, Swamp White Oak, and Sugar Maple. Each seedling will come in a small burlap bag that can later be washed and reused for produce, along with a small tag with instructions on how to plant the seedling.

Photos by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

“I think that it’s important to commemorate things with tree planting,” says Chuck Doughty, who oversees landscaping for the Boston campus. Doughty will be leading a tour of the trees around campus at noon, culminating in the ceremonial planting of a yellow magnolia tree outside Kariotis Hall.

This particular tree is a cross between a local magnolia variety and a species from China. Doughty picked it for its bright yellow blooms, which should arrive right around Arbor Day each year.

“Trees are especially important in an urban environment. The City of Boston cherishes and celebrates its green space,” says Cimilluca. “Northeastern builds on that ethos and it is apparent here on our beautiful campus.”

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