Arboretum rooted in DU history


A walk around campus will herald numerous sights and sounds; one ever-present element is the many trees that dot DU.

The space DU occupies is known as the Chester M. Alter Arboretum, a designation made in 1999 by then-Chancellor Daniel L. Ritchie.

Arboretum curator Francesca Aguirre-Wong said Ritchie founded the arboretum to honor his predecessor; Alter was DU’s chancellor from 1953-1966.

“The arboretum was founded in 1999 by Chancellor Ritchie to commemorate all the good work that Chester M. Alter had done throughout his years as the DU Chancellor,” said Aguirre-Wong.

One additional role filled by the arboretum is to catalog and document all of the trees on campus.

According to Aguirre-Wong, that number is well over 2,000 individual trees of several hundred species.

“The arboretum has 2,239 trees and 287 different taxa,” she said.
Some of those 2,239 trees have a history tied to them as well. Some trees have plaques or nameplates that denote their historical importance to DU’s campus, such as one planted by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady and wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States.

According to an article in DU Magazine, Johnson came to campus on Sept. 10, 1965, to plant a tree and dedicate the Harper Humanities Garden, which is named in honor of the mother of former DU Chancellor Heber Harper.
From its beginnings as a garden in the 1960s to today, the arboretum has continued to change and evolve with campus.

Aguirre-Wong describes new additions and changes to the arboretum that she sees as adding benefit to the campus community at large.

“This February … we began replacing old plastic and metal tags/signage with new aluminum accession labels that have each tree’s accession number, scientific name and grid number,” said Aguirre-Wong, adding, “This was a major accomplishment towards becoming a better curated arboretum and providing information to the public. For example, if someone were walking through the arboretum and was curious as to what kind of tree they were looking at, they’d simply look at the new accession label.”
This year, the arboretum also held the first annual DU Tree Election, in which students, staff, alumni and community members voted to plant a tree on campus.
The Texas Red Oak emerged as the winner and will be planted on April 25 at 2 p.m. Aguirre-Wong hopes students will continue to stay involved with the arboretum.

“Students were very excited to be a part of this decision-making process for the very first time. We look forward to involving students more like this in the future,” said Aguirre-Wong.

Those interested in learning more can visit

Alex is a Senior at DU studying Political Science, currently undertaking an Honors Thesis concerning Colorado Springs politics and political development. Alex is a lifelong Colorado Springs resident and passionate advocate for the community. In addition to having been Clarion Editor-in-Chief from 2013-2104, he serves on the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Advisory Board and El Paso County Citizens Outreach Group.

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