Joseph Dits | September 10, 2017
Nature seems to carpet the University of Notre Dame campus, right? But the reality is that just about every inch of it has been disturbed and replanted since the Rev. Edward Sorin founded it 175 years ago. Some of it is native. Much of it isn’t.
In the beginning, French priests came here and brought trees from Europe. It was a time of exploration.
“The early intentions and wishes of Notre Dame was just to get examples of everything,” says Barbara Hellenthal, curator of the university’s Museum of Biodiversity and its Greene-Nieuwland Herbarium. “They were interested in overall diversity. They tended to plant things that were familiar to them.”
Over the past two summers, she and students have documented more than 10,000 trees as she updates a book she’d co-authored in 1993, “Trees, Shrubs and Vines on the University of Notre Dame Campus.” They’ll have most of the counting done by this fall, with more work next year, though she says it’s hard to predict a publication date.
Hellenthal took me around campus to seek a few interesting pockets of nature, stuff that I may have seen but may not have appreciated. I also dropped by the opening of a new park. You’ll find a noticeable effort in recent years to install more native plants, though some ornamental plants are still added.