The University of Denver's Chester M. Alter Arboretum was founded in 1999 under the leadership of then-Chancellor Daniel L. Ritchie to honor the legacy of the institution's 12th chancellor. Today, the Arboretum serves as a testament to Alter's role in laying the foundation for the campus to come. Serving as chancellor from 1953 to 1967, Alter spearheaded a building boom and helped the campus grow from 75 acres to 125.

The Chester M. Alter Arboretum is home to about 2,100 trees and thousands more woody plants representing more than 427 species and varieties. In addition to some historically significant mature trees, the Arboretum includes 10 state champions, the largest specimens of their particular species growing in Colorado. Denver's University Park neighborhood, just east of the DU campus, is home to several more state champions.

The Arboretum aims to establish a regional identity for the campus based on its collection of trees, shrubs, and woody plants that enhance the University's aesthetic, educational, and scientific goals. In time, the Arboretum's collection will include all native Colorado species capable of flourishing on the Front Range, as well as a variety of ecologically adapted specimens from around the world.

The University's trees preside over a site once covered in high prairie grasses. They highlight the continuing changes to our landscape and environment, and represent the enduring human impulse to improve and beautify our surroundings.

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The Arboretum exists in order to curate and maintain a recognized collection of trees and woody plants that enhance the DU campus environment, provide research and educational opportunities, and promote sustainability. The mission of the Chester M. Alter Arboretum is to provide structure and methods for preserving, managing, and enhancing the historic urban forest on the University of Denver's campus. Sound and effective land stewardship practices shall be demonstrated through curation and enhancement of the campus biodiversity.

  • Planning and Design

    Many campus construction projects affect the landscape. The landscape component of all campus improvements shall enhance or contribute to plant collections and the Arboretum mission.

  • Academic Programs

    Establish a collection of trees and woody plants along with landscape systems that support teaching, research, and collaboration with other institutions.

  • Stewardship and Sustainability

    Work with all campus stakeholders to promote sustainable practices for long-term success of Arboretum investments. This includes a strategy to anticipate altered precipitation and temperatures along the Front Range.

  • Urban Forest

    Provide an educational setting that advances the University of Denver's mission to promote the relationship between people and their environment. The Arboretum will provide spaces for memorable and enriching experiences for students, faculty, staff, and visitors by enhancing the overall campus landscape.


Arboretum Staff

Patrick Martin
Director, Chester M. Alter Arboretum
Office: Olin Hall 203

Mark Eliot Rodgers, AIA & AUA
University Architect
Office: Facilities Service Center

Learn more about the University Architect, Mark Eliot Rodgers, here.


Historical Banner

Historical Timeline


Chester M. Alter spearheads a building boom and helps the campus grow from 75 to 125 acres.


Professor Moras Shubert, a good friend of Chester M. Alter, begins early documentation of the collection.


Lady Bird Johnson plants an oak in the Harper's Humanity Garden during its dedication.


Bill Besh creates the Autocad grid map, assigning trees grid numbers to identify their locations.


The Chester M. Alter Arboretum is officially founded by Daniel L. Ritchie.


William Kurtz establishes the Edna Biggs Kurtz Chair in Botany to support the Director of the Arboretum.


Marc Hathaway is appointed Arborist and begins updating early documentation processes. David Christophel is appointed Director. Inventory labels are installed.


The Harper Humanities Garden is redesigned.


Chester M. Alter passes away in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at age 99.


Martin F. Quigley is appointed Director and implements the BG-BASE database. The Alter Arboretum Pavilion is built. 100 trees are planted in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Daniels College of Business.


Francesca Aguirre-Wong is appointed to Arboretum staff. All trees are accessioned into BG-BASE. Professor Moras Shubert passes away at age 100.


The Arboretum begins giving tree tours. The official website is launched. Display labels are installed in front of 82 featured trees.


Accession labels begin to be installed on all the trees.


Dan's Garden opens, featuring ponds and a Pinetum showcasing dwarf conifers.


Patrick Martin is appointed Director.


The Arboretum collections swells to over 425 species as woody shrubs begin to be accessioned into the collection.

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