UNC Campus

Branching out

The number of trees on campus might surprise you as UNC receives designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for meeting forestry standards

Tree Campus USAWhen Zachariah X. Snyder hired Hans Hockbaum from Cornell College to be his landscape architect in 1895, the campus in this semi-arid climate contained nary a tree. Nine years into his college presidency, Snyder’s vision began to take root with more than 400 species flourishing here as the institution entered the 20th century.

The legacy of Snyder, Hockbaum and their successors continues today. Now, with 3,695 trees dotting the campus landscape, the Arbor Day Foundation has taken notice. In January, the organization designated UNC with “Tree Campus USA” status for “meeting standards in sustainable campus forestry.” NV

Next up: The university plans to create a campus tree trail system and a self-guided walking tour of the arboretum.

View UNC’s Tree Campus USA application that provides even more details.

Read "UNC’s Official Tree Hugger:” Pat McDonald, the man behind the massive effort to catalog 3,695 trees and take a virtual tree tour and see some of McDonald’s favorite trees.

For the Record

It’s not advisable to plant on campus one of UNC’s oldest and largest trees, the 69-foot-tall silver maple that towers in front of Presidents Row (formerly Faculty Apartments).

True. Silver maples, commonly planted in the early 1900s, are considered “undesirable” because of the water they consume and their susceptibility to storm damage. Other trees that fall into the category of the silver maple aren’t planted anymore on campus, with the exception of maintaining the native Colorado species population. The university will continue to maintain the trees in the category that have already been planted.

The campus contains every species native to Colorado.

False. This statement was perhaps true at one time as it’s difficult to maintain mountain species on the Front Range. There are plans, however, to plant the seven missing native species in the near future: river birch, peachleaf willow, bristlecone pine, Utah juniper, subalpine fir, mountain alder and singleleaf pinyon pine.

What’s Your Favorite Tree on Campus?
Tell us why on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/universitynortherncolorado


Download a pdf slideshow and descriptions of Pat's favorite trees.

By the Numbers

1895 – the year it’s believed the first tree, possibly an American Elm, was planted on campus (It was a gift from the graduating class.)

1,269 trees on campus in 1988

3,695 now on campus

1,255 (34 percent) are native Colorado species

246 acres of campus canvassed on foot by UNC Manager of Landscaping & Grounds Pat McDonald and colleague Brent Engel to identify and catalog the trees by hand

57 days it took McDonald and Engel to take tree inventory by hand last summer

389 Green Ash trees – the most of any species on campus

4 state champion trees, judged by their size, from the Colorado Tree Coalition:

  • 1 Kentucky coffee tree (northwest of Frasier Hall)
  • 2 Amur cork trees (north of Gray Hall and south of Gray Hall in the parking lot island)
  • 1 pecan tree (northeast of the intersection of 9th Avenue and 19th Street)

94 percent of trees on campus are considered healthy. Reasons for unhealthy trees or removal of trees include infestations affecting the area from the likes of Ash borers, pine beetles, Ips Engraver beetles on blue spruce and pine beetles.

$19.6 million estimated value of campus tree populations

A Tree Timeline

1889 – UNC founded as Normal School.

1891 – President Zachariah X. Snyder begins first landscape efforts on campus by hiring Hans Hockbaum from Cornell College as landscape architect.

1895 – First tree planted on campus (believed to be an American Elm, a gift from the graduating class).

1900 – More than 400 different species now planted on campus, including beloved silver maple at Presidents Row.

1915-42 – Richard Dempsey, who becomes superintendent of buildings and grounds, plays a significant role in the initial campus landscape development - only Kepner Hall and the President’s Home (now the Visitors Center) existed when Dempsey was hired. Dempsey is responsible for the planting of eventual state champion trees, including the first ginko.

1935 – Normal School becomes Colorado State College of Education.

1942-48 – William Ross, a biology professor who also served as superintendent of buildings and grounds, becomes president.

1957 – West campus expansion begins with the purchase of the Petrikin farm

1970 – Colorado State College becomes UNC.

1987-88 – An inventory documents 1,269 trees on campus.

2012 – UNC Manager of Landscaping & Grounds Pat McDonald and colleague Brent Engel identify and catalog 3,695 trees.

2013 – UNC earns Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.


Silver Maple

Location: South lawn of President’s Row
Diameter: 72 inches
Value: Appraises at more than $97,000, according to landscaping software that assesses value based on a formula that takes into account factors such as age, health, height, trunk diameter and canopy size. One of 50 silver maples at UNC, it’s the oldest and largest tree on campus and a former State Champion Tree.

Silver maples were a commonly planted street tree in the region at the turn of the 20th century. It’s now a prohibited tree due to its demand for water. It’s also prone to wind and storm damage and has a very shallow root system, making mowing a challenge.

Photograph by Hannah Swick


Read "UNC’s Official Tree Hugger:” Pat McDonald, the man behind the massive effort to catalog 3,695 trees and take a virtual tree tour and see some of McDonald’s favorite trees.