Kent Theiling began working towards our certification as an arboretum as soon as he came to Washington University in 2009. An early piece of that work was public outreach with annual spring and fall tree tours organized by Kim Cummins. By 2018 self-guided tours became possible with QR coded tree tags, created by Student Technology Services, that could be scanned with a phone and would take the viewer to a web page with information about the tree in front of them. The arboretum website was completed, and we became registered as a Level I arboretum with Arbnet in 2019. Chris Anderson took over as landscape manager when Kent retired and with additional programming and 50 more trees on the website, we were elevated to a Level II arboretum in 2020.

From the start, the arboretum has served as a student engagement tool. Students from Student Technology Services developed the website while two semesters of the community-engaged capstone experience course, the Sustainability Exchange, helped populate the website content and develop outreach tools and programs to connect the arboretum with the Washington University community. In addition, the Arboretum has been used for programming with visiting schools, like Forsyth Elementary School, which developed their own student-led tree tagging tour after being inspired during a tour of Washington University campus. Over the summer, the tree tags were also used for programming with Washington University College Prep program, which provides college experiences for first generation high school students. The arboretum is currently incorporated into courses in Biology, College Writing, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and English.

  • ArborDay Foundation Tree Campus USA since 2010
  • Certified Level I Arboretum, ArbNet 2019
  • Certified Level II Arboretum, ArbNet since 2020

The campus of Washington University was essentially bare of trees in 1922. While we have added dozens of buildings to campus over the past century, we have also added a rich and diverse canopy of trees to the landscape.