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Ready for a nature walk in Boston? Northeastern’s arboretum is blooming.

Northeastern’s Boston campus was designated an arboretum last year, making Northeastern the only university in Boston with an arboretum on its campus. The arboretum offers a variety of plant life that blooms throughout the spring. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

While self-isolation measures outlined by public health officials are forcing many indoors, there’s a better way to watch spring bloom than through a window: Northeastern’s Boston campus arboretum offers a variety of plant life, and plenty of space to enjoy it while staying physically distant from others. (Just don’t forget your mask.)

The campus arboretum—a designation Northeastern recently received, making it the only university in Boston with an arboretum on its campus—features over 1,400 individual trees and 143 tree species, says Chuck Doughty, Northeastern’s landscaping program director. And, he recommends a slow stroll to take it all in.

Doughty suggests “taking your time and looking at a plant branch, and looking at the leaves emerging, or the buds.”

“I think one of the messages is there’s a lot more going on with plants than just a quick walk-by” could reveal, he says.

Clockwise from top left: red impression tulips, red emperor tulips, blue cineraria, and dwarf Korean azalea bloom on campus. The landscapers at Northeastern’s Boston campus try to plant the tulips so that they bloom at the end of the spring semester. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

A classic spring sight on campus is the tulips that bloom in early May. Doughty says the landscapers try to plant the tulip bulbs so they’ll bloom at the end of the spring semester, just in time to beautify campus for graduating students. The tulips provide a welcome burst of color to campus after the long winter, but even before the flowers reach their peak, you can see the buds curled tight in anticipation, nestled in amongst the greenery. 

“Once you start looking at trees and shrubs and flowers closely, there’s amazing parts and pieces that have all added up to the beauty that they have,” Doughty says.

Cherry trees, that feature small flowers stretching across their branches, also dot the campus. The delicate blooms are fleeting, and you can see evidence of them on the ground: The petals coat the Boston brownstones across campus, reminiscent of the winter snow flurries. 

Clockwise from top left: Allegheny serviceberry, Bradford ornamental pear tree, Sargent cherry, and star magnolia are some of the trees in the arboretum. Northeastern’s campus arboretum features over 1,400 individual trees and 143 tree species. Photos by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

No matter when you visit, there’s something to see.  Doughty says that different plants bloom at different times across campus, so there is no bad time to visit.

“On campus there are things that bloom really early and as we go through the spring everything has its season,” Doughty says. “Every day it seems like the campus changes.”

Another feature of the campus is the horse chestnut trees, which have large and colorful buds. The trees are in a small planter outside the architecture studio by the Ruggles transit station, and while they may look rather plain afar, they have intricate details upon closer inspection. 

Doughty says that if there’s been anything to gain from the current state of the world it’s people remembering to slow down and appreciate the world around us.

“If there is something good coming out of all this I think it’s getting in tune with nature,” he says.

Stop and smell the tulips.

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