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ASU chosen for Campus Tree Tour

September 25, 2008

Thanks to the eagle eyes of Laura Johnson, an office specialist with the Office for Research and Sponsored Projects Administration, and the hard work of Deborah Thirkhill, program coordinator for The Arboretum at ASU, the Tempe campus will have 100 new trees, as of Nov. 7.

The best part of all is that they are a gift from The National Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota.

ASU was selected to be one of nine colleges and universities to receive trees -- and host a Campus Tree Tour 2008 tree-planting event.

Also selected for the Campus Tree Tour were Oregon State University, the University of Texas-Austin, University of Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Northern Kentucky University, Jackson State University, University of Michigan and the University of California, San Diego.

The Campus Tree Tour is designed to "demonstrate the numerous educational and environmental benefits that trees provide to college campuses as well as our environment," said Jennifer Boettcher, program manager for the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Boettcher said the Lincoln, Neb.-based foundation selected ASU to be part of the Campus Tree Tour because of its "outstanding application and desire to plant trees."

Johnson learned about the Campus Tree Tour program last May when she was scrolling through e-mail in the ORSPA general-announcements mailbox. A tree lover, Johnson was fascinated when she came across the Campus Tree Tour solicitation announcement from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Her boss, Deborah Shaver, suggested she contact the Arboretum, so she sent a note to Mitzi Steinmann in Facilities Management, who in turn passed along the information to Thirkhill.

Thirkhill immediately started drafting the application, and received the good news of ASU's selection in July.

Deciding which trees to order for the campus was like being in a candy store with $100 to spend, or in Thirkhill’s case, wandering through a nursery with Santa Claus in tow.

“Everyone on staff at Grounds Services/Arboretum provided input for what trees they would like to see on campus,” Thirkhill said.

“Ellen Newell, associate director of Grounds Services, Mike Schantel, assistant director of Grounds Services, and Fernando Reyna, manager of Grounds Services, will decide the final list.

“Half of the new trees will be for our Campus Harvest program and will include fruit and nut trees that we can harvest for use in ASU campus kitchens like the new Engrained Café and the University Club," Thirkhill said.

"The other 50 trees will consist of rare and medicinal trees to round out our Arboretum collection and replace trees that we had lost, before the recent violent storm, like our old ginkgo and moonah trees.

"The rare and medicinal trees will fill in spots along the Maroon and Gold Arboretum trails on campus. (Go to for a map). We would like a large grove-planting of the fruit and nut trees," Thirkhill added. "We're current looking at the northeast side of the pedestrian bridge across University and working on identifying other sites hit by the storm."

The fruit and nut trees will include peach, nectarine, apricot, pineapple guava, avocado, lychee, loquat, pear, mango, fig, macadamia, almond, pistachio, pecan and black walnut.

Possibilities for the rare and medicinal trees include neem, American chestnut, paulownia, baobab, Japanese tree lilac, bristlecone pine, tea tree, yellow and pink shower trees, allspice, kola, quassia, sassafras, Mexican elderberry and kidneywood.

“Most of the trees will be bought locally from several different nurseries and the more rare ones will probably be on special order from out of state nurseries,” Thirkhill said.

For the Nov. 7 event, ASU is required to recruit 30 students or other volunteers to assist with the planting, provide logistics such as tools and equipment, and provide after-care, water and mulch to the newly planted trees for a year.

Thirkhill said the Arboretum is also applying for the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA program. “The Tree Campus USA program recognizes college and university campuses that effectively manage their campus trees, develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy, urban forests, strive to engage their student population utilizing service-learning opportunities centered on campus, and community forestry efforts,” Thirkill said.

“We are in the process of inviting members of our faculty, staff, students and local community to participate in a Tree Campus informal committee. This group will meet quarterly to provide the Arboretum with valuable campus input as well as provide a forum for education and the development of connectivity to the community.”