Location: Bowdoin / Sustainability / Activity / 2011 / Trees, Please

Turning a New Leaf: The Future of Bowdoin's Trees

Bowdoin College Quad (#4489), courtesy Bowdoin College Archives

Story posted September 28, 2011

Bowdoin’s Quad is perhaps no more attractive than in autumn, when the age-old maple trees turn vibrant orange, gold, and red. As it turns out, though, maintaining the 1,600 campus trees is a lot of work. We met up with Tim Carr, Bowdoin’s arborist, for a tree tour of the Quad; Carr told us about the variety of species they plant, how the grounds crew decides to cut down aging trees, and what the campus trees will look like in the decades to come.

By far the most prolific trees on the Quad are the towering sugar maples. Their sheer mass creates an atmosphere of antiquity on campus, not to mention the huge volume of leaves they provide for the occasional fall tromping. If you look up though and see the sparse crowns and canopies, you might worry that the venerated maples are losing their battle with time. And you wouldn’t be wrong. The hundred plus year old trees are beginning to show signs of decay...some have been cut down already and more are flagged for removal this winter. “The Quad right now is what we call a mature stand of trees,” Carr explained. “This means that in ten, fifteen years, the campus will look different. It will be a medium-age stand.”

But don’t worry, Bowdoin tries to replant every tree it cuts down with an in-kind species within a year. The grounds crew pays close attention to the historical placement of the College’s trees, too: deciduous trees are kept for the Quad, pines and other evergreens are reserved for the backs of Massachusetts Hall and Cleaveland/Druckenmiller. New plantings are kept farther away from the walkways to ensure longer lives (salt in the winter, plowing, and root damage from sidewalks can all diminish a tree's lifespan) and a greater variety of species keeps all trees healthier should a disease arrive. Some of the more exotic species that Tim introduced to Bowdoin include Kentucky Coffee Trees, Dawn Redwoods, Katsuras, and London Plane Trees. So take a closer look next time you’re on the Quad, soaking up the last days of warm weather; you very well might appreciate our trees a little more.

Pictured above:
Bowdoin College Quad (#4489), courtesy Bowdoin College Archives