Want to meet a tree | University of Nevada, Reno

/Cheryll Glotfelty

Want to meet a tree? Arboretum audio tours and Visitor's Guide explain how

5/25/2018 | By Cheryll Glotfelty
Professor of English

Want to Meet a Tree?

Cheryll Glotfelty hugs a tree on University of Nevada, Reno campus

Cheryll Glotfelty hugs a tree

How many people on campus do you know by name? How many campus trees do you know by name? Most people know fifty times more two-legged individuals than leafy ones. The university Arboretum Board has published a new guidebook and audio tours to introduce you to the trees that grace our beautiful campus. But why might you want to become acquainted with trees at all?

If you're like I used to be, you take the trees of campus totally for granted. They are a green backdrop to whatever preoccupations are spinning through your mind as you hustle to and fro. You might have a favorite walking route, or you might seek out shade from trees, but rarely do you consciously notice much less greet the trees you pass. (If you walked by a colleague so obliviously it would be considered rude.) Most people's appreciation of the beauty of campus is general rather than particular. This is not a bad thing, but life can be so much better.

When I became chair of the Arboretum Board four years ago, I decided to begin learning about the trees of campus. I arranged a tree tour led by Dick Post, a UNR professor emeritus of horticulture, book author, and inspiration to generations of both students and the public. I was amazed to learn that we have over 3300 trees on campus, representing more than 200 species and varieties. During this tour, I met Rod Haulenbeek.

Rod Haulenbeek

Arboretum Board Member Rod Haulenbeek

Although Rod spent his career in Texas working for the oil industry, he was always awed by the beauty and variety of trees. Upon retirement, he moved to Yosemite National Park for a while where he took up bird-watching. But birds are small, flitting, and flighty, so Rod's attention turned to the trees where the birds were hiding, and while he may have looked up, he never looked back. He subsequently moved to Tahoe and then to Reno, becoming a self-educated tree expert and writing several books on trees, the latest of which is Northern Nevada Tree Identifier, a field-guide organized by season and containing over 2000 photographs. Rod has done contract work for the Nevada Division of Forestry, inventorying over 15,000 city trees, and he holds certifications that include Master Gardener, Tree Worker, Arborist, and Tree Risk Assessment.

Rod cannot sit still. He is a chipper squirrel, scampering around trees, darting this way and that. This loquacious "Tree Hunter" loves people almost as much as he loves trees, and his passion is education, sharing his love of trees with others. Consequently, Rod leads tree tours for all kinds of groups, from fidgety kindergartners to disabled seniors in golf carts.

After one of Rod's tours, I asked him if he could write up a few, self-guided tree tours that we could make available to the public on the Arboretum website. Little did I know then that Rod is an overachiever. Rod recalls, "As I started looking at the trees in several key areas, I remembered that other areas of the campus had interesting trees too. How could I pick favorites?" Soon "a few" tree tours turned into 28, covering fifteen to twenty trees per tour! I innocently mused aloud, "You know, it would be really neat to have audio tree tours ..." Voilà! Rod obliged. Along with other Arboretum Board members, I field-tested the audio tours, which expanded my tree knowledge exponentially.

Japanese Snowbell in bloom

Japanese Snowbell in bloom

I became entranced with novelty trees. The gnarly Camperdown Elm in Fleischmann Ag Quad. The exquisite and rare Japanese Snowbell on the west side of the Sarah Fleishmann Building, which has white flowers in June that dangle along the length of the tree limbs like a row of suspended ballerinas. The Umbrella Catalpa on the corner of N. Virginia St. and 16th St., looking for all the world like a super-sized toadstool. I also think it's so cool that what I breathe out-carbon dioxide-trees breathe in, and what trees breathe out-oxygen-I breathe in. That's reciprocity.

As I walked from the parking lot to my office, I began to notice how the trees along my route change with the seasons, from being laden with snow to being cloaked in pink flowers to being green and leafy to turning rust-colored to disrobing their leaves onto the ground. I began making friends with these fellow living beings that had been there all along but whom I had been unintentionally dissing because my thoughts were so relentlessly inward. When my attention began to turn outward to notice the trees, the world became more wonderful-full of wonders--and I became a saner, happier person. 

With Tree Hunts! A Visitor's Guide to the University of Nevada, Reno Arboretum by James W. Hulse, Cheryll Glotfelty and Rod Haulenbeek

Visitor's Guide Book Cover

Learning the names of people is the first step in making friends. Similarly, learning the names of trees is the first step to becoming aware of them. But it can be mildly intimidating to break into tree identification. How do you start?

Want to meet a tree? Here are three resources:

1. Take a tree tour led by Arboretum Board members Rod Haulenbeek or Rex Crawford. Tours, talks, and events are announced over the Arboretum Events listserve. To subscribe, email Cheryll Glotfelty glotfelt@unr.edu.

2. Twenty-eight self-guided, text-based and audio tree tours are available on the "Rod's Tree Tours" page of the UNR Arboretum website: https://www.unr.edu/arboretum/rods-tree-tours. Each tour visits a different part of campus and lasts approximately 20 minutes.

3. Purchase the new A Visitor's Guide to the University of Nevada, Reno Arboretum. Thumbing through this attractive guidebook is like taking a leisurely, inquisitive stroll through campus and into its secluded gardens. You'll learn about the history of the University and the evolution of its grounds. Family-friendly "tree hunt" sections profile several trees per area. Non-intimidating! Fun! This book retails for $14.95 from the University of Nevada Press, Amazon, Nevada Wolf Shop, and the Arboretum (arboretum@unr.edu). Sales support the Arboretum.


NSights offers viewpoints that do not necessarily reflect the official position of the University of Nevada, Reno.

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