New Walking Tours Showcase Campus Trees

AMHERST, Mass. - A colorful and easy-to-read new map that highlights the many unique and special trees on the University of Massachusetts campus is now available. The map, a project of the campus beautification committee, guides visitors along three separate walking tours of the central area of the UMass campus.

The three tours, which are designated on the map by colored loops, are each about one-half to three-quarters of a mile in length, and require about a half-hour to complete. Each of the tours is wheelchair accessible. Separate inserts direct visitors to Durfee Gardens, the Rhododendron Garden, and the plantings in the courtyard of the Whitmore Administration Building. The map lists both the common and botanical names for the plant specimens indicated along the routes.

"The map was designed to highlight the extensive variety of trees on campus," says Kathleen Scott, beautification committee co-chair. "It’s also a form of outreach to visitors and the Amherst community, and serves as a valuable teaching tool at the same time."

Faculty member Jack Ahern of the department of landscape architecture and regional planning, and graduate student Hongbing Tang determined the routes for the walking tours and designed the map, in consultation with the committee. Committee volunteers walked each route and "tested" the map to make certain it was easy to follow. "Our objective was to showcase the most attractive and interesting trees located in the central area of campus," says Ahern. "We’re hoping to increase people’s awareness and appreciation of what we already have here and to build support for the future."

About 120 species of trees are represented on the map, according to Ahern. He singles out as particularly noteworthy the pin oak near Munson Hall, one of the largest in the state; the black tupelo tree near the Campus Pond; the Japanese elm by South College, the oldest in the country; the beeches in front of Draper Hall; and the "shadbush" courtyard between the Conte polymer center and the Lederle graduate research building.

Ahern expects to label the trees along each route sometime next spring, and he’s hopeful the campus can also develop a database of all its trees in the near future.

But in the meantime, Scott says the map offers visitors and those who simply love trees an opportunity for a "relaxed stroll" on campus. "It’s a guide to ‘a green thought and a green shade,’" she says, quoting from the 17th-century poet Andrew Marvell.

The map is available at various locations on campus including the Robsham Visitors Center, the lobby of the Campus Center hotel, and Durfee Conservatory.