Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum
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How Trees Speak to Us: The Human-Tree Connection

Virtual Earth Day Panel

April 22, 2022 | 12pm

Presented by Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Office

Where would we be without trees? The human experience has forever been intertwined with the persistent presence of trees. Whether situated in a multispecies forest network or an urban neighborhood, trees are critical to our survival; they act as connectors to our past and improve the future quality of life for everyone on our planet.

Because of our close, symbiotic relationship, trees and humans speak to each other in a language that permeates through our shared landscape. How do we as humans interpret and benefit from the language of trees?

Join us during lunch for a lively moderated panel discussion that will offer unique perspectives on this fascinating topic from professionals in horticulture, environmental history, and Philadelphia urban forestry.



Bethany Wiggin

Bethany Wiggin is the Founding Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, an Associate Professor of German and member of the Graduate Groups in Comparative Literature and English at the University of Pennsylvania, and the immediate past Co-President of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Her scholarship explores histories of migration, language, and cultural translation since the Columbian exchange across the north Atlantic world; she is currently completing Utopia Found and Lost in Penn’s Woods. She holds research to be a human right and regularly leads public research projects designed to connect academic and community expertise for environmental action. These projects have been supported by the National Geographic, Whiting, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations and include: An Ecotopian Toolkit for the Anthropocene, Data Refuge, Futures Beyond Refining,and My Climate Story (selected). She has offered testimony about project findings to audiences ranging from school children, to the City Council of Philadelphia, the U.S. Congress, and UNESC.


William Cullina

William Cullina is the F. Otto Haas Executive Director of the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to this he was the President and CEO of Coastal Maine Botanic Garden for eleven years. Cullina holds degrees in plant science and psychology, has been working in public horticulture for 25 years, and has extensive experience in in horticultural and forestry research, and commercial nursery production. A well-known author and recognized authority on North American native plants, Cullina lectures on a variety of subjects to garden and professional groups and writes for popular and technical journals. His books include: Wildflowers; Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines; Understanding Orchids; Native Ferns, Mosses, and Grasses; and Understanding Perennials.

Jared Farmer

Jared Farmer is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in environmental history, landscape studies, and the American West. Farmer is the author of four books, including Trees in Paradise: A California History (Norton, 2013), and the forthcoming Elderflora: A Modern History of Ancient Trees (Basic, 2022). On Twitter and Instagram, Farmer is @geohumanist.

Michelle Kondo

Michelle Kondo, Ph.D., is a Research Social Scientist with the USDA Forest Service, stationed in Philadelphia, PA. She holds academic degrees in civil engineering and urban planning, and obtained postdoctoral training in epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines nature-and place-based strategies, and clinical interventions, for disease, violence, and injury prevention with a focus on underserved urban communities.

Alerts & Updates

The Arboretum is closed to the public today (9/6) due to potential flooding.

The Arboretum is open as usual. Click here for hours.

Please note: The Rose Garden is closed for maintenance every Thursday morning until noon.

Weather conditions may limit garden access to certain features even if the garden is open – please check the web site or call (215) 247-5777 for updates before visiting. Our visitors’ safety in the garden is our top priority. Therefore when inclement weather is predicted, we will make decisions about closing the garden accordingly.