Pentacrest Museums ‘Tree Tours’ set to begin on Earth Day

UI Pentacrest Museums plan to kick off their new educational series, ‘Tree Tours,’ this Friday, April 22, just in time for Earth Day. The guided tours around the Old Capitol and Pentacrest will highlight the important history and symbolism behind several of the campus’ trees.


Braden Ernst

MacBride Hall, the meeting sight for Pentacrest Tree Tours debuting on Earth Day, is seen on April 17, 2022.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

The University of Iowa has a vast abundance of rare tree species across campus. The UI Pentacrest Museums have decided to celebrate the history and symbolism of trees by debuting their new educational program series, Tree Tours, on Earth Day, April 22.

In spring 2022, the UI’s campus became recognized as an arboretum, of which there are only 145 institutions total with this title, by an organization called Arbnet. Arbnet focuses on expanding, recognizing, and establishing arboretums, which are places for plants and trees to grow for educational purposes.

The UI campus has also been a designated Tree Campus Higher Education location since 2009, which is the Arbor Day Foundation’s national program aiming to acknowledge universities with flourishing, healthy tree and plant life.

The tour will begin at the main entrance of UI’s Museum of Natural History and will stick to paved areas around the Old Capitol.

Carolina Kaufman, UI Pentacrest Museums Director of Education & Engagement, created and developed the Tree Tours program.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Kaufman wrote that she and her volunteer researcher, Trevor Viohl, spent over six months researching campus trees, with special help from UI Arborist Andrew Dahl. She noted that across its 1900 acres, the UI is home to 8,000 trees of over 300 species.

With resilience on her mind after the last two years, Kaufman stated that she was in part inspired to create the tour by the instability and adjustments brought on by the pandemic and other socioeconomic issues. Trees are the “lungs of our planet,” she wrote.

“This made me realize that it was an opportunity to connect the resilience of trees to that of our own,” she wrote. “Trees that have survived hardship and disruptions like war and storms help exemplify to us the kind of resilience and growth mindset we need in our busy working lives.”

Kaufman looks forward to telling the stories of two of the oldest trees on campus, the Black Walnut and American Elm, which have both been alive for over 130 years. She also looks forward to exploring the UI’s newest botanical addition, the Anne Frank Sapling.

RELATED: UI prepares for Anne Frank tree sapling to arrive on campus 

The Anne Frank Sapling will be planted on campus on April 29 — Arbor Day — and is the 13th Anne Frank Sapling in the world. Kaufman noted that it will be planted with the intention of encouraging communities to honor Frank’s life and legacy.

Trevor Viohl, who volunteers for the Pentacrest Museums, helped research the trees across campus. He wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that after completing the tour, he hopes people will not only have a deeper appreciation for the trees that populate the UI’s campus, but a renewed relationship with the natural world.

Viohl noted that trees are quickly vanishing from their standing spots in many locations, and that the UI’s campus should encourage other areas of the world to rebuild its relationship with nature.

“My hope is that audiences will see the importance of trees for people throughout history and use it as inspiration to foster their own relationship with our natural world,” Viohl wrote.

Another UI well-being program for students and staff, LiveWELL, is collaborating with Tree Tours for the summer. LiveWell is offering a “2022 Campus Wellness Scavenger Hunt,” in which three stops overlap with those on Tree Tours.

Megan Hammes, the Senior Director of UI Wellness, said that she is excited for this collaboration within the UI, and that there is value in highlighting the green spaces on campus.

In trying to reclaim activities that provide joy and energy after two lonely years, Hammes said that LiveWELL aims to prioritize wellness, and Tree Tours is a healthy way to do that, emphasizing that mindfulness includes paying attention, which can help people’s brains recover from being tired and weary.

“Being mindful is extremely beneficial for resilience,” Hammes said. “There are also mental health and well-being benefits of being in nature and connecting with others, and the Tree Tours are a perfect way to get all of these benefits at once.”