WASHINGTON, PA (Oct. 28, 2021) – For the eighth consecutive year, the Campus Arboretum at Washington & Jefferson College has earned the Tree Campus Higher Education designation from the Arbor Day Foundation. With a current inventory of 950 trees from 60 species, the Arboretum’s mission is to promote conservation, provide a landscape aesthetic, and educate the community.
Jason Kilgore, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, curates the Campus Arboretum and often incorporates it as a teaching tool in his classes. Last spring, Kilgore’s forest ecology class used the Arboretum to conduct arborist evaluations, prune trees, and tap maple trees to produce syrup. Student volunteers also help plant and maintain trees, while Anna Dubiel ‘23 manages the database as the Arboretum Information Specialist.
In recent years, Kilgore has added a variety of theme beds to the Campus Arboretum. The Rocky Mountain bed was the first theme bed and features ponderosa pine, quaking aspen, and subalpine white fir and a variety of understory plants from the Rocky Mountains. Next, Kilgore and his students initiated a Pinetum, which is an arboretum that specializes in conifers. A ginkgo, dawn redwood, and giant sequoia, as well as several conifers native to Pennsylvania, are planted there, but the region’s climate is hindering the sequoia’s growth beyond a shrub phase.
The Campus Arboretum’s latest project is a Food Forest of different species of fruit-bearing trees, demonstrating how humans can plant trees in our landscape that can provide for us and other animals. Nut-bearing trees, like white oak, shagbark hickory, hazelnut, and Chinese chestnut, are interspersed with berry-producing trees, like pawpaw, serviceberry, spicebush, and black chokeberry. More trees are soon to come with future Arbor Day celebrations of trees.
Kilgore frequently leads tours of the Campus Arboretum for local garden clubs, watershed groups, and alumni during W&J Homecoming.
“I see the Arboretum and each of our theme beds as destinations,” said Kilgore. “Garden clubs from the Greater Pittsburgh Region come to campus to see the Campus Arboretum and plantings all in one place and enjoy their visit to our beautiful campus.”
Kilgore has big plans for the Arboretum in the coming years. He is working with Environmental Studies Major Grace Gegick ‘22 to solicit possible grant funding for a full-time arborist.
In addition, Dr. Jay Keefer ’57 has commissioned the student-led production of a booklet to recognize specific trees on campus.
“The booklet will be a high-quality publication that features some of the outstanding trees and theme beds on our campus, along with a map and index of all trees and species on campus,” Kilgore said.
The Campus Arboretum has always been student-focused, which is Kilgore’s biggest goal as it continues to grow. From its establishment in 2012, when Kilgore worked with student Kyle Karwatski ‘14 to create a digital map of all trees and species, W&J students have continued to play an integral role in the beautification and safety of the campus landscape.
Today, the Arboretum encompasses the entire 85 acres of W&J’s campus and athletic venues and is a Level I Accredited Arboretum with ArbNet. Contact Dr. Kilgore at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the Campus Arboretum.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.