UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Campus continues to blossom at annual Arbor Day celebration

A Tree Campus Higher Education institution, UND celebrates Arbor Day with tree planting ceremony on May 16

UND landscapers
UND President Andrew Armacost, UND Arborist Jared Johnson and the University’s landscaping staff all helped with the tree planting event. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

Editor’s noteIn the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, the Affinity core value calls on the University both to ‘cultivate physical and online campus environments that are welcoming, safe, healthy and inclusive,’ and to ‘promote sustainable practices critical to the long-term health, well-being and success of the University community.’

As the story below describes, UND takes great pride in the fact that every campus visitor encounters a spectacularly beautiful, tree-lined campus. That’s no accident. As a Tree Campus Higher Education institution, UND has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its successful campus forest management and engagement of students and staff in conservation goals.

The story was first published in UND Today on May 21.


The next time you stroll past the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration building on University Avenue, you may notice a vibrant new addition to the lawn outside the building. On May 16, a beautiful flowering crab apple tree of the Show Time variety — presumably named for its attention-grabbing, vibrant reddish-pink flowers — was planted on the northwest side of the building.

The Show Time tree and several other species were the centerpieces of UND’s 2024 Arbor Day celebration, which also included addresses by UND President Andrew Armacost, Vice President for Finance & Operations Karla Mongeon-Stewart and UND Arborist Jared Johnson. The trio also helped landscaping staff plant four trees on the west and north sides of the building.

Mongeon-Stewart opened the gathering with a greeting and a brief history of Arbor Day, which took root in America when Nebraska newspaper editor Julius Sterling Morton led the planting of an estimated 1 million trees in 1872.

“The primary purpose of this holiday is to celebrate nature and encourage the planting of trees,” Mongeon-Stewart said before offering some surprising facts about how trees help keep our planet livable.

“One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people, and more than 20 percent of the world’s total oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest. Trees also clean our drinking water, and forested watersheds provide quality drinking water to 180 million Americans.”

Additionally, Mongeon-Stewart said global forests remove an estimated one-third of fossil fuel emissions annually. To put that into perspective, she noted that in Greater Kansas City — which recently committed to planting an additional 10,000 trees in the next three years — trees remove 26,000 tons of air pollution a year.

jared Johnson
UND Arborist Jared Johnson gestures toward Nistler’s new trees as he describes this year’s chosen species. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

UND Arborist Jared Johnson gave attendees a brief rundown of the kinds of trees planted at the celebration. They included several varieties of crab apple trees — the fruitless Spring Snow and vibrant Show Time, in particular — and a pair of his favorite spruce species, the disease-resistant Norway spruce and the “big and burly” Ponderosa pine.

It is Johnson’s hope that his team will plant 400 trees, including flowering varieties such as Show Time and Spring Snow, by the end of 2024.

Additionally, Johnson said they want to transition from planting disease-prone Colorado spruce to planting more resilient Meyer’s spruce trees on campus. At the end of the event, Johnson and the landscaping crew handed out Meyer spruce saplings to attendees so they could plant them at home.

During his address, Armacost thanked Mongeon-Stewart, Mark Johnson, Jared Johnson and the UND landscaping crew for their work in maintaining the forestry and horticulture on campus.

“I think that if I’m going to celebrate Arbor Day on this campus, it’s because of the work that their team does to make our campus beautiful,” he said. “The work that the whole team does to plant trees and flowers and care for them brings this campus to life, literally.”

Karla Stewart and Armacost
After helping to plant a Spring Snow crab apple tree on the west side of Nistler, Armacost and Mongeon-Stewart gave their best “American Gothic” impression. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

A highlight of the event came after Armacost requested tree-related songs from the audience. In response, Provost Eric Link began to croon Tony Orlando’s classic pop song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” in a booming baritone.

The provost’s impromptu performance was met with a chorus of laughter from attendees, partly due to his playful delivery. But the song — told from the perspective of a newly released prisoner, who was asking the sweetheart he had left behind to tie the ribbon if she still wanted to welcome him home — is also a reminder of the trees’ lasting impact on communities.

Because, despite the narrator’s long stint in prison and uncertainty about his love life, he knows he can count on that tree being there when he returns home.

Similarly, some of the spruces planted at UND’s Arbor Day gathering could live for four centuries and become generational fixtures for the community, even as the people and buildings around them change. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that someday, five decades from now, a student will use the shade provided by the Show Time crab apple’s blooming flowers to sit down and study as birds twitter from its branches.

That possibility is a reminder that, as Armacost pointed out, trees are part of what makes UND come to life.

“Trees are the essence of life, and when we think about what they bring to us — both in terms of their beauty and their function on this Earth — I think it’s important that we honor this day and those who bring them into our environment to make our campus what it is,” he said.

sapling handed out
At the conclusion of the event, Johnson and landscaping staff handed out Meyer’s spruce saplings to attendees. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

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