Cal Poly to Host Nov. 19 Tree Planting to Honor Arbor Day and Celebrate Campus Urban Forest

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly will host a tree planting ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 19, to honor a century-old arboreal commitment that has created the most-diverse urban campus forest in the nation.

The annual Arbor Day event will take place at 2 p.m. Three trees will be planted on North Poly View Drive, the inner campus loop, near the western end of the Baker Center for Science and Mathematics (No. 180) and on the south side of Science North (No. 53). 

The university has been recognized since 2014 as an Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA.

Cal Poly hosts its annual Arbor Day celebration each fall because it is the ideal time of year to plant trees on the Central Coast.

Biology Professor Matt Ritter, Cal Poly Landscape Manager Chris Wassenberg, who maintains the university’s Tree Campus USA designation and the campus tree library, and other members of Facilities Management and Development department will lead the program. 

The new trees include a pair of spotted gums (Corymbia maculata), a eucalyptus species that can grow to a height of 100 feet and live up to 150 years. The tree was lost from campus during ground preparation for the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation building now under construction.

In addition, a Cook pine (Araucaria columnaris), a novel species native to New Caledonia with an unusual bent, will honor the work of Cal Poly alumnus Jason Johns, who earned a master’s in biological sciences in 2017. 

Johns “published the most downloaded paper in the journal Ecology for his awesome discovery of the worldwide lean of this species,” said Ritter, a prominent tree expert. The 2017 study found that Cook pines, which can grow up to 160 feet tall, tend to have a uniform tilt toward the Equator, dependent on the hemisphere of individual tree’s location; the species leans an average of 8 degrees south in the Northern Hemisphere and the same angle north in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cal Poly’s commitment to trees reaches back to its earliest days. The Founders Tree is a majestic valley oak that was planted by the school’s first graduating class in 1906. This milestone tree was nearly lost when California Boulevard was extended but was saved thanks to the efforts of a few tree lovers. Although it is precariously close to the road, it is doing just fine, Ritter said.

The university is among 16 California colleges or universities and more than 380 other schools across the U.S. to carry the Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.

But Cal Poly stands apart from the rest boasting the largest variety of tree species on a university campus in the nation. Campus officials have inventoried 6,600 trees and nearly 550 varieties in the campus core alone. The coastal live oak (Quercus agrifolia) is the most common tree on campus, but there also are many exotic and rare species.

In addition, the campus is home to two national champions listed on the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute’s Registry of California Big Trees.

“There’s the red gum across from the Baker science building and karri gum up in Poly Canyon,” Ritter said. The River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) measured 111 feet high, with a trunk circumference of 267 inches and a crown spread of 130 feet when it was nominated in 2014. The karri gum (Eucalyptus diversicolor), nominated in 2007, measured 154 feet high, with a trunk circumference of 201 inches and a crown spread of 74 feet.

Contact: Jay Thompson

Nov. 14, 2019

# # #

Related Content