UMD123: 15,148

This is a post in our new series on Terrapin Tales called UMD123! Similar to our “ABC’s of UMD” series last semester, posts in this series will take a look at the university’s history “by the numbers.” New posts will come out twice a month, on Wednesdays, throughout the semester; search “UMD123” or check out Twitter #UMD123 to see the rest. If you want to learn more about campus history, you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.

So… 15,148 what? Your first thought was “the number of undergraduates currently enrolled,” wasn’t it? Nope! That number is even higher. What about the number of parking spaces? Pft, if only.

If you remember back to last semester’s series on the ABCs of UMD, we talked about the Willow Oaks on campus. This number is related. There are (really, truly) 15,148 “botanical assets” on our beautiful campus, including trees, shrubs, herbs, and other plants. In fact, there’s so much plant life that our campus became the UMD Arboretum & Botanical Garden in 2008.

Plant Life in the Maryland Agricultural College
Our foundation as the Maryland Agricultural College in 1856 and our designation as a Land Grant university in 1865 speak to our university’s long-standing dedication to agriculture and plant life. Our founder, Charles Benedict Calvert, considered botany as one of several important studies which would play a part in the students’ “scientific and practical agriculture” education, when he outlined his vision for the college in a letter dated September 29, 1858, to businessman James C. Nicholson of Baltimore. The growing of fruits and vegetables was also a crucial part of the early curriculum at the MAC. Within five years, the horticulture department was described as teaching “practically all the nicer and finer operations of gardening, which do not generally receive much attention on the farms.” President William H. Parker, our 12th president, noted in 1877 that the college had 12 acres dedicated to “garden stuff.”

Cadets planting tree on Arbor Day

Cadets often planted trees for Arbor Day and were required to work the fields on campus multiple times a week.

Development of Horticulture Curriculum at Maryland
As the years passed, horticulture became even more central to the developing educational programs of the university. The first degree in Horticulture was awarded by the Maryland Agricultural College in 1907 to Guy W. Firor. The first master’s and doctoral degrees were not awarded until 1923 and 1925, respectively. The program continued to develop throughout the 20th century, eventually adding a curriculum in Horticultural Therapy. This curriculum was composed of classes across multiple disciplines, including physical therapy, psychology, and even anthropology, alongside the horticulture requirements. Landscape Design was introduced to the department in the early 1980s, and a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture was added in 1993. The first master’s students were admitted to Landscape Architecture in 2008.

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Throughout its history, Maryland has never lost its connection to agriculture and plant life, as clearly reflected in the 15,148 botanical specimen we now boast on campus. Our continued dedication to beautiful gardens and plant life is exhibited in the work that the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, alongside Facilities Management, does on the maintenance and development of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden in order to continue this legacy. Their excellent work has resulted in our campus being named a Tree Campus USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation, and we are in pursuit of the award this year for the eighth time.

Garden with pink flowers by Consoli
Garden along McKeldin Mall. Photo by John T. Consoli.

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