Nature’s Gift

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.”

Leo Tolstoy


Stephen Schneider, Director of Horticulture and Grounds and co-ops working for Northeastern’s Arboretum, worked in tandem with the University Advancement division prior to the holidays to create and share a tangible piece of Northeastern’s Arboretum as a unique gift for the university’s Board of Trustees. Steve proposed creating multiple herbarium specimens, providing an elegant way to retain the natural beauty and memory of chosen specimens. He believed that this was the best way to share a piece of Northeastern’s on-campus ecosystem while representing the conjunction of art and science.  


Herbarium specimens consist of plant samples that have been pressed, dried, and mounted on a sheet of paper in order to preserve and present a physical sample of the whole.  Steve saw the herbarium project as a new learning experience for co-ops working for the Arboretum presenting new challenges and opportunities. “It was a challenging task to put everything together. We had to move fast,” Steve said. “Just like how one would prepare a proper museum specimen, the process of creating beautiful herbarium pieces can take up to several months.” The team prevailed and completed this task within just three months, while projects of this type could potentially take up to six or even nine months to complete.


The plant selection process proved to be the most meticulous part of this herbarium project. Steve and his co-ops chose the most diverse group of tree species to represent Northeastern’s Arboretum showing the plants one could witness daily when on campus. While the selected specimens ranged from native plants to one’s endemic to the far east regions of our planet, they share a common thread among them. They are all a part of Northeastern’s Boston campus ecosystem that continues to grow and evolve into something bigger than it once was. Steve added, “This ecosystem celebrates diversity in more ways than one and, for those far from home, can sometimes provide a familiar face in the form of a tree that they grew up within their native land.”


The herbarium sheets became a part of larger gifts prepared for the board of trustees to express gratitude for their help and generosity. In a way, trustees became caretakers of the community in the same way as Steve is a caretaker of the arboretum. The gifts were not designed to be flashy and thus were designed with a clear purpose of reinforcing a connection between people and the campus. Herbaria were combined with other products which were created by Northeastern’s student and alumni entrepreneurial community. These included Rooted Living granola bars in sustainable packaging; AshaPops, a unique and healthy snack; an independent arts magazine, Boston Art Review, as well as a sustainable skincare product, Embeba.  Amy Briemer, Senior Associate Director for Donor Relations pointed out that one of the main reasons why the gift was arranged this way was to create a tangible connection with a physical piece of Northeastern’s Boston campus.  Amy emphasized, “ We truly hoped that this living piece of campus would evoke happiness and feelings of resiliency, especially considering how much our community has overcome during these past few years.”


After the success of this undertaking, Steve decided to incorporate the experience of this work as a brand-new opportunity for future co-ops to learn more about the art of preparing herbarium specimens and expand a range of possible skills that a student could obtain when working for Northeastern’s Arboretum. This will also ensure that students will also get a chance to contribute to Northeastern’s diverse community with their art pieces that will have an opportunity to create throughout their time at Northeastern’s Arboretum.

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