UA’s Urban Forest Earns ‘Tree Campus USA’ Times Three

  • April 12th, 2018
UA’s oldest River oak tree

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s not difficult to find shade at The University of Alabama.

With the campus’s 10,000 trees far outnumbering its buildings, UA is more of an urban forest with a school hidden beneath its foliage than the typical brick and cement university with a few scattered trees dotting its property.

For the third year in a row, the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized UA’s sprawling forest as a “Tree Campus USA.”

“It’s a great honor,” said Donna McCray, senior director of UA’s facilities operations and grounds use permits. “We are thrilled to be acknowledged because it is not a simple task to be named, and there’s a lot that goes behind it.

“We’re rated by Sightlines as No. 1 amongst our peers and other schools in the SEC for having the most beautiful campus, and we have been for eight years.”

“Tree Campus USA” is a designation given only to accredited colleges and universities that meet five standards that promote and develop healthy trees and student involvement with them.

Those standards are:

–  Having a campus tree advisory committee made up of students, faculty, facilities staff and community members, who provide guidance for future planning and education of students about the campus’s trees.

–  Maintaining a campus tree care plan that provides policy for the planting, care and removal of trees.

–  Having a campus tree program that has dedicated annual financial allocations for tree-related expenditures.

–  Celebrating Arbor Day.

–  Holding a service learning project that engages students with tree-related projects that are a part of a campus or community initiative.

“Being a Tree Campus USA means we are helping sustain the mission of the University by creating a beautiful place for anybody to come,” McCray said. “It helps not only with the beauty of the campus, but also helps us to recruit the best and brightest.”

The University’s 10,000 trees are comprised of more than 50 different types. McCray said oaks and magnolias are the most prevalent, and the single Chinese pistache tree, which was a gift from the queen of England in the mid-1800s, is the rarest.

“Most of the oaks going down University Boulevard were planted in honor of World War I veterans from Tuscaloosa who were killed in action,” she said.

UA has an electric irrigation system that ties together 130 irrigation systems to keep trees well watered.

McCray said a team of six people manages the Capstone’s trees, including a professional forester. The team’s tasks include planting new trees, removing dead limbs, mulching and checking on the condition of each tree.

Every time a tree dies it is replaced with at least five new ones, however, the new trees aren’t always placed in the same locations as the old ones.

“A lot goes into maintaining our trees,” she said. “This is why we have a campus policy that doesn’t permit slack lining, zip lining, hammocks, climbing or nailing anything to our trees. That creates holes in them for bugs to enter causing disease.

“Our trees are a legacy. A legacy for us all.”


Donna McCray,, 205/394-4204


Jamon Smith, communications,, 205/348-4956

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.