Arboreal Architecture

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Saturday November 14

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10:00 AM  –  12:00 PM

In this beautifully illustrated slide lecture, Harvard botanist and urban ecologist Peter Del Tredici will describe the basic biological principles that control the development of form in trees. The discipline of “Tree Architecture” was developed in the 1970s and describes the dynamic, modular construction process whereby every species of tree develops its characteristic shape. This architectural blueprint not only controls the development of trees under ideal circumstances but is also flexible enough to respond to changing environmental conditions and to facilitate recovery from traumatic injury. Winter and early spring, before the leaves come out, are great times to learn how to “read” the history of a tree that is embedded in their form.

Del Tredici’s botanical career started in 1972 as a technician running the research greenhouses at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts where he studied nitrogen-fixation in non-leguminous plants. In 1979, he started working at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Boston and continued there until my retirement in 2014. During those 35 years, Del Tredici served as the Assistant Plant Propagator, Curator of the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection, Editor of Arnoldia, Director of Living Collections, and Senior Research Scientist.

His research interests are wide ranging and include subjects such as the trees and shrubs of temperate China, the root systems of woody plants, the botany and horticulture of magnolias, stewartias and hemlocks, and the natural and cultural history of the Ginkgo tree. Since 2004, Del Tredici’s work has focused on urban ecology and climate change.

He was also an Associate Professor in Practice in the Landscape Architecture Department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1992 through 2016 where he taught a range of courses from plant identification to soils to urban ecology and climate change. From 2016 through 2019, he taught in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT. In 2013, Del Tredici was awarded the prestigious Veitch Gold Medal by The Royal Horticultural Society (England) “in recognition of services given in the advancement of the science and practice of horticulture.”

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