A budding tradition continued over the weekend at Northwest Missouri State University as newly arrived students took part in the school's fifth annual freshman tree-planting ceremony.
University President John Jasinski welcomed about 200 freshmen to the Missouri State Arboretum, a distinction bestowed on the campus by the state Legislature in 1993.
"This is one of the most beautiful campuses in America," Jasinski said. "As you think about it, the importance of the planting of a tree really exemplifies your growth and your rebirth throughout your years at Northwest."
In honor of the freshman class of 2013, Northwest Landscape Manager Travis Stokes planted a "crimson king" Norway maple.
At maturity the tree will stand between 35 and 45 feet high and provide dense shade from its purple-green foliage. In the spring, the rounded crown of the crimson king fills with maroon-yellow flowers, and the leaves turn brown, dark maroon or bronze during the fall. The tree is located southeast of the Memorial Bell Tower.
Northwest Student Senate President Cody Uhing accepted a small identification plaque that will be placed near the sapling. Maryville Mayor Jim Fall spoke briefly during the gathering and encouraged the freshmen to embrace both the community and the campus as their home.
"Maryville and Northwest Missouri State are names that are synonymous with everything that we think about when we think of this part of the country, when we think about Missouri, when we think about the Midwest, and we challenge you to join us in enhancing and embellishing this community over the next four years," Fall said.
Jessica Bonnot, a freshman horticulture major from Liberty who helped plant the tree, said she chose Northwest because she was attracted to its small-town atmosphere and opportunities for hands-on learning, such as working at the State Arboretum.
"I absolutely loved it," she said of the ceremony. "I can't wait to come back years from now and see if it’s still here and say I helped plant it."
Northwest is home to more than 1,700 trees representing nearly 130 species. The school's horticultural connection goes back to the mid-1800s, when Thomas Gaunt established a nursery on land that, in 1905, became the site of Missouri's Fifth District Normal School.