by David Harbeck


Northeastern University’s Boston campus has officially been recognized as an arboretum by ArbNet, a nonprofit dedicated to helping create and conserve arboreta around the world.


“I was gleeful when I found out,” says Chuck Doughty, who oversees landscaping for Northeastern. “I couldn’t wait to spread the news.”

04/24/19 – BOSTON, MA. – People walk through campus as trees bloom on April 24, 2019. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University


Doughty, who is the program director of landscaping grounds at Northeastern, says that Northeastern is now the only university in Boston to have an arboretum on its campus.  The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is located in the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale sections of Boston.


Doughty, who has been working for two years to have Northeastern recognized as an arboretum, has helped transform the Boston campus into an urban oasis.  More than 1,400 individual trees, representing 143 different species, shelter the walkways between buildings and surround the open green spaces.


The land on which much of the campus is built was surrounded by waterways that were filled in during the 19th century.  It was a challenge, Doughty says, to find trees that could survive in this man-made environment.  Digging a hole into the densely packed fill creates a cup that can trap water around the roots of a tree.  To thrive, trees needed to be able to tolerate moisture and occasional flooding, but also handle bouts of dryness.


“Through trial and error, we’ve found species that work,” says Doughty.


To be accredited, an arboretum needs to have a strategic plan, a governing board, public programming, and an inventory of every tree and woody plant on the grounds.  Northeastern’s Boston campus was named a level two arboretum, which means that it met this criteria, in addition to having more than 100 different species of trees, a policy that documents how the trees are maintained and acquired, and educational programming for the public.


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