The Trees of Cornell

A Celebration of Trees

In honor of Arbor Day and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day celebrated in 2020, Mann Library is pleased to present this celebration of Cornell's trees.

The trees stand always ready to greet--students new and old, faculty and staff, returning alumni, and visitors from all corners of the world. This spring many of us are unable to visit our favorite campus trees, rest beneath their canopies, or relish the sweet delight of their blossoms. Cornell's trees are at the core of the beauty of this university's campus, but of course they are also so much more.

Professor Nina Bassuk of the Section of Horticulture and her students have for years been making the value of a tree more apparent on the Ag Quad. As we are observing Earth Day and Arbor Day from home this year, we have been inspired to pair their tree data with the Library’s rare and distinctive collections in the historical life sciences and bring something of Cornell's trees to you, wherever you may find yourself.

Exterior_Mann Plaza_Fall_Students_Socializing_JennyLeijonhufvud.jpg

Amazing Trees

We’ve long known that trees provide vital services-- food, fiber, shade and protection--to humans, our landscapes and the ecosystems of which we are a part. We also are now understanding with ever greater clarity, the key that they hold for our planet's future.

In one important recent study, scientists have hailed tree planting as one of the most powerful strategies available to sequester carbon out of earth's atmosphere and help mitigate the process of global climate change. In these pages you may learn more about several tree types, see the specific benefits even just a single specimen can provide, and enjoy the exquisite ways these beauties have been rendered by natural historians and artists of past centuries.

Trees on Campus

The Campus Tree Inventory from Cornell's University Geospatial Information Repository (CUGIR) was updated in 2016 and gives a great overview of all the trees on campus. Explore each individual tree page in this exhibit to find a map of where they can be seen on campus, or you can search for any species yourself on the interface put together by Mann Library's GIS and Geospatial Applications Librarian Keith Jenkins.

We hope you get the opportunity to visit each of our featured trees in person on the Cornell campus one day. As for the meantime, we invite you to virtually explore their beauty and their contributions to Cornell's campus and to the long-term health of our planet.

Some Key Benefits of Trees

Carbon Sequestration

Trees sequester (or "lock up") CO2 in their roots, trunks, stems, and leaves while they grow, and this CO2 remains in wood products after they are harvested until the wood decays. Trees properly placed near buildings can reduce heating and air conditioning demands, thereby reducing emissions associated with power production. You can help put the carbon sequestration numbers provided for each tree into context by considering that a mid-sized sedan driven 12,000 miles generates about 11,000 pounds of CO2 and a flight from New York to Los Angeles adds 1,400 pounds of per passenger.

Cleaner Air

Trees can absorb pollutants like ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) through leaves, intercept particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) like dust, ash, and smoke, releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, lower air temperatures which reduces the production of ozone.

Reduced Energy Use

Trees can shade structures, reducing the amount of heat absorbed and stored in it. Evapotranspiration of moisture by foliage reduces air temperatures, and trees slow down winds which reduces the amount of heat lost from a home.

Absorbing Stormwater

Urban stormwater runoff washes chemicals (oil, gasoline, salts, fertilizers etc.) and litter from surfaces such as roadways, parking lots and fields into streams, wetlands, rivers, and oceans. This affects our drinking water, aquatic life, and the health of our entire ecosystem. Trees act as mini-reservoirs, reducing runoff by intercepting and holding rain on leaves, branches, and bark, increasing infiltration and storage of rainwater through the tree's root system, and reducing soil erosion by slowing rainfall before it strikes the soil.

Source: iTree Design

Inspired by the beauty of these illustrations?

Exercise your own, or your children's, artistic muscles by downloading the "Color Our Collections" coloring sheets found at the bottom of each tree page in this exhibit and color away!


Text and Design: Eveline Ferretti and Jenny Leijonhufvud

Color our Collection images: Daisy Wiley

Comments or questions: mann-public-ed-prog@cornell.edu

A special thank you to Nina Bassuk, CUGIR, and Keith Jenkins!

Mann Library gratefully acknowledges the support of the Elizabeth (Betty) Rowley Fund for Mann Library, the Bondareff Family Fund, and the Mann Library Excellence Fund in the production of exhibits at Mann Library.