In time for Florida Arbor Day, UF President Kent Fuchs, Wageningen University & Research President Louise Fresco and other UF representatives will plant a 9-foot live oak tree in the heart of campus as part of a global initiative to plant 100 “UniversiTREEs” across the world to create a forest. The forest symbolically represents the international connection to Wageningen.
The UniversiTREEs must be slow-growing and long-lived species suited to the native environment, so a live oak is a fitting candidate for north central Florida and the University of Florida campus.
UF plants tree with world’s top agricultural university at Florida Arbor Day ceremony
What began as a foggy morning on the south Reitz Union lawn became the roots for a lasting partnership. UF President Kent Fuchs and Wageningen University and Research Executive Board President Louise O. Fresco planted a Southern live oak tree to celebrate Florida Arbor Day and commemorate both universities’ long collaboration. The ceremony honored the centennial of Wageningen’s establishment, which was in 2018.
The act is part of the UniversiTREE global initiative, which Fresco started and decribed as a global forest of trees in places where Wageningen has strong ties. She said by the end of this year, it will have 100 trees in 100 countries.
Fuchs said the tree was free of cost and it would sit on campus in accordance with Florida Arbor Day’s traditional celebration of foliage.
“It’s quite special that this tree will be here like our other live oaks for 100 plus years,” Fuchs said in his speech. “Thousands of students, faculty and staff will walk by this and appreciate it.”
Even though Wageningen is in the Netherlands, Fresco said it has worked with UF for soil science and crop physiology. She said their relationship is so special that when she went to the United States for the first time 30 years ago, Gainesville was her first stop.
“Florida has always had a strong link with us as one of several universities in the United States,” she said. “We always look for partners who have the same sense of excellence.” Fresco said Wageningen is already looking to broaden its partnerships with UF through student exchange, joint courses and additional staff exchange.
UF food and resource economics professor James L. Anderson opened the ceremony and touched on the significance of the UniversiTREE as a symbol of the relationship between the universities. “They [trees] represent strength, they represent longevity, they represent family,” he said in his speech.