Trees on Brown’s campus are generally planted with some sort of aesthetic in mind. On the “quiet green” (also known as the “front campus”), American elms and white dogwoods comprise most of the trees. The quiet green is lined with mountain laurels. The main “theme” for the main green is comprised of elms and magnolias. Most of the trees on Lincoln Field are cherry trees and redbuds. This system of planned planting leads each area on campus to have a characteristic appearance.

Brown’s tree-planting scheme used to be largely comprised of American elms, which were prized for their “weeping” appearance. In the 1930’s, however, Dutch elm disease struck North America, killing most native American elms. Many trees on Brown’s campus needed to be replaced. Several disease-resistant hybrid varieties of elms have been planted on the main green (Siberian elms, “Valley Forge” American elms, and “Liberty” American elms), but these species do not appear to grow nearly as well as the native American elms. The blight of Dutch elm disease serves as a reminder of the risks of monoculture — one species’s susceptibility to a disease can have dramatic consequences.

Although aesthetics are often at central in the goals of urban forestry, planting trees in cities affects more than appearance. Trees provide shade, improve the quality of local air and water, improving soil quality through their roots and leaves, provide habitats for animals, and create green spaces that people can enjoy.

Thanks to Pat and Hugh in Brown’s Department of Facilities Management for providing information about the trees at Brown. Basic urban forestry information on this page came from the USDA Forest Service website.

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