Tree Committee walks through arboreal history of UMass Dartmouth

Sep 18, 2023

The UMass Dartmouth campus is famous for its imposing “brutalist” structures, which emphasize the use of concrete and sharp angles. Today, those buildings find themselves surrounded by greenery, mostly due to a significant variety of tree species, from Oak to Birch to Beech to Holly.

However, many of those species didn’t come to the school until the 1980s. Before then, the campus had been “a barren landscape,” which made it a “depressing place to work for many years,” said digital media professor Harvey Goldman.

The campus owes botanist and biology professor Jim Sears for the current biodiversity, as he enlisted students and other professors in planting trees around the campus over many years. 

To celebrate Sears’ work and the species he spawned, the Dartmouth Tree Committee invited the public to a “tree walk” around the campus Sunday, Sept. 17. Sears himself led the walk, sharing information about each species and when it was planted. 

“It’s very unusual to go on a tree walk with someone who planted most of the trees,” Goldman said. 

At a stop by an English Oak near the head of campus, Sears explained that he planted the oak as an acorn at his home and then moved the 7-year-old tree to campus. The acorns themselves were collected along the Falmouth to Woods Hole path, he said. 

Brian Bogue is a new student at UMass Dartmouth, and wanted to learn about the native and non-native species on campus. He said he likes trees because they’re “tall.”

“I love trees, I think of myself as interested in conservation and native plantings. Trees are incredibly important to our environment,” said Marnie Greenwood. 

Vince Mor is part of a men’s walking group and the event coincided with what he and the group would have done on Sundays anyway.

“I didn’t know they were all planted,” Mor said. “I was here 25 to 30 years ago - there was nothing.”

Mor said he came to campus annually throughout the last 10 or 15 years for The Flattest Century in the East, a bike ride which departs from UMass Dartmouth. Over those years, he said noticeably more trees were visible. 

Sears and Tree Committee members reiterated the effect that the trees have had on professor and student mental health at the university. 

“If you can see a tree, you can have some optimism,” Sears said. 

Dartmouth Tree Committee is currently working on its “Trees are Cool” project, which identifies areas in town in need of trees and works to plant ones there. As the cost of planting a tree can be as pricey as $1,000, the group is seeking donations, which can be made on the Town website