Wake Forest University

Water and Landscaping - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Water and Landscaping

Water and Landscaping

Master Plan

The 2009 campus master plan reinforced the value of the forested areas and streams on the 345-acre Reynolda campus. The mature campus forest cover is important for maintaining healthy ecosystems and as flood control.

Stormwater Management

As a result of campus stormwater management practices developed in the 1950’s, high volumes of untreated storm water have been released into the small tributaries that flow from campus. Downstream erosion, sedimentation, and poor water quality are among the side effects of these outdated practices.

The campus master plan calls for the creation of watershed-based stormwater management strategies and best management practices for campus development.

Tree Care Plan

Campus officials developed and adopted a Tree Care Plan in 2011. In total, conservation and maintenance commitments led to Wake Forest’s designation as a Tree Campus USA in 2012.


Landscaping Update: Winter Jasmine

March 3rd, 2015

jasmineDuring spring break, campus landscaping services will be doing some work on the west side of Wait Chapel near parking lot A.  The slope on this side of the chapel is covered with Winter Jasmine that has become overgrown and has expanded beyond its intended beds.  Some of the Winter Jasmine will be removed and replaced with sod near the Huffman Residence Hall loading dock.  The rest will be cut back to encourage new, healthy growth.

Tree Removed in Lot P

January 7th, 2015

cherry tree webA weeping cherry tree on the island in the middle of parking lot P on the east side of Wait Chapel was removed on January 6. The tree, which was part of the original campus planting plan, split down the trunk, rendering it unsalvageable.

This tree will be replaced with the original varietal Weeping Higan Cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’). A description of this tree states that it “grows 20 to 30 feet tall and spreads 15 to 25 feet in a graceful weeping habit. Leaves stay glossy green throughout the summer and into the fall when they turn a vivid yellow before leaving the tree bare in winter. The drooping bare branches even lend a soothing grace to the landscape in winter. There is nothing quite like the Weeping Higan Cherry in full bloom in the spring. The light pink (almost white), one-inch-diameter flowers cover the branches before the leaves emerge, giving the appearance that fresh snow has fallen on the tree.”

Landscaping Update: Wait Chapel

January 7th, 2015
chapel before

Overgrown shrubbery at Wait Chapel

Over the winter break, Facilities and Campus Services began renovation of the courtyards to the east and west sides of the Hearn Plaza entrance to Wait Chapel. Work, which began on December 15, 2014, is scheduled for completion on January 16, 2014.

Overgrown shrubbery, which was causing damage to the building and obscuring the site, has been removed and will be replaced with a more inviting pocket garden design that opens the spaces up to Hearn Plaza. The project will include curved teak benches, brick pavers, blue stone and an entirely new planting scheme.

chapel plan

New landscaping plan at Wait Chapel


Are You a Champion?

October 30th, 2013

Have you or are you preparing to facilitate a change to a sustainable practice on campus? Have you implemented a new sustainability initiative in your area? If so, you might be a winner!

This coming April, Wake Forest will host our inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony.

In March, we will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:

  • resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
  • academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
  • service and social action, and
  • bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).

We look forward to hearing about the work of all the inspiring change agents across campus.

Nurturing Natives

October 16th, 2013

Click the photo to view more pictures of native plants on campus.

With numerous breathtaking views, Wake Forest University’s beauty goes beyond the brick and mortar that composes the bones of the campus – it’s also in the Magnolia trees that outline Manchester Plaza, the curry-colored Black-Eyed Susans in front of Alumni Hall, and the Oakleaf Hydrangeas that transition from white to pink, welcoming students into their residence halls. These beautiful plants do more than add to the splendor of campus, however. They are native to the area and therefore support the wellbeing of the local ecology.

As David Davis, WFU manager of landscaping services can attest, successful landscape design entails planning for size, site requirements, and aesthetics. Davis takes it a step further, bearing in mind subtle elements like attraction for pollinators, fragrance, and even sound. One example of this process is the planting of native grasses near a bench where the sound of their dried dormant foliage can be appreciated on a breezy day. Such grasses are just one of the 20-25 staple native cultivars that are incorporated into the Wake Forest landscape.

Davis has planted native species, or what he calls pre-European flora, intentionally. The Winston Hall rain garden, a certified Monarch Waystation might be one of the more familiar native planting sites on campus. Davis is making a point to add “native islands” in parking lots and in front of residence halls too. At the front of Bostwick Residence Hall, he has replaced the English Ivy with a robust mix of native PowWow Wild Berry Coneflowers, switchgrasses, and Moonbeam Coreopsis. Similar native islands were planted near faculty/staff parking lots, F, G, and H.

Although it is evident Davis is a supporter of native plantings, he recognizes that placing only native species across campus is not always appropriate; the microclimates created by the urban environment severely limit plant selection. A hearty mix of natives and non-native species takes advantage of the unique qualities of each plant in the landscape. In front of Alumni Hall, the native Purple Muhly Grass glimmers next to non-native shrubs. At Farrell Hall, the native Sweet Kate pops in a landscape with non-natives like the Japanese Red Maple tree.

It is important to note that principles of sustainability are considered even when incorporating ornamental plants into the landscape. Davis selects vegetation that will thrive in the immediate environment and that requires minimal maintenance. In theory, such considerations may seem obvious. But in reality, aesthetics often outweigh practicality and sustainability for some landscapers.

Davis even opted to go native while landscaping the area around The Barn. Early succession Virginia Pines stand as the backdrop for the LEED Silver-certified building, but it is the surrounding vegetation that warrants a second look. The central island in the driving loop outside The Barn consists of natives that have flourished in the damp environment, fed by the runoff from the road. Other native vegetation frames the area: cedars, American Holly, Bracken Fern, Sassafrass, Eastern Redbuds, Flowering Dogwoods, and Serviceberry trees.

The research and knowledge that is necessary to choose the appropriate cultivars is just one example of the work required to effectively landscape with natives. A current undertaking that requires even more preparation is the invasive plant eradication along the Reynolda Village walking trail. Invasive species targeted for removal include Kudzu, Porcelain Vine, Bush Killer Vine, Wisteria, and Japanese Stilt Grass. EPA and NCDA-approved aquatic herbicides are being sprayed to eliminate the plants along Silas Creek. Once this first phase is complete, the area will be populated with natives that will be aesthetically pleasing, that will provide habitat for pollinators, and will stabilize the soil in the area.

Landscaping with native plants might be considered trendy. For Davis, however, it is not a fleeting idea – it’s a priority. As Wake Forest University strives for excellence in teaching and research, Davis notes that it is important for the facilities to do the same, creating landscaping that reflects the values of the university.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator

A new tree honors Tu B’Shevat

February 4th, 2013

Tu B'ShevatWake Forest Hillel, the Office of Sustainability, and Landscaping Services partnered for a celebration of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees, on Friday, February 1st.

Students and staff braced against the cold on the Benson Circle to plant a new willow oak in honor of the holiday, a celebration of connectedness.

Shoshanna Goldin, president of Hillel, welcomed guests at the event and Dedee DeLongpre-Johnston, Director of the Office of Sustainability gave an explication of Tu B’Shevat. Nicky Vogt, an intern for the Campus Garden, contributed a poem, and Rabbi Michael Gisser, spoke on the spiritual significance of the gathering and provided context for the holiday within the larger Jewish tradition.

Following the speakers, guests took up shovels and worked together to fill in soil around the tree donated by Landscaping Services.

Wake Forest’s Tu B’Shevat celebration occurred slightly later than the actual January 25th date of the holiday. This delay was an intentional accommodation of students’ schedules, but, as Rabbi Gisser quipped, attendees would have been “blown away” by last Friday’s wind and sleeting rain.

A Shabbat dinner, also hosted by Wake Forest Hillel, followed the outdoor celebration.

By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustianability

Rain garden solves erosion problem

July 1st, 2012
Rain Garden

Click the photo to view more pictures of the rain garden.

This spring Landscaping Services staff implemented an innovative solution to an erosion problem caused by copper runoff from the roof of Winston Hall. Runoff from copper rain gutters and roofs, commonplace across North Carolina, can be a source of soil contamination. The idea is simple. As stormwater washes off the copper roof, small traces of metal are carried along with the water into the soil. Since copper is a recognized biocide, copper-contaminated runoff can kill plants over time, contributing to soil erosion.

Some North Carolina institutions have chosen to scrap their copper gutters and replace them with other metals that leach “less harmful” agents. Landscaping Services Manager David Davis proposed a different solution to the copper runoff problem at Winston Hall: a rain garden.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) created the Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) to fund people and institutions with ideas that improve local water quality by reducing stormwater run-off and resultant erosion. Davis used funding from CCAP to subsidize installation of the rain garden. Landscaping Services also purchased recycled concrete aggregate, which was then buried in the path of the water. The copper ions in the water bind to the concrete rubble, effectively removing the contaminant from the water. The concrete aggregate replicates the effects of the many existing concrete storm drains around campus, which remove copper from stormwater runoff.

After laying the concrete aggregate, Davis and his team filled in the area with indigenous plants like Paw-Paw, Spice Bushes, and Black-Eyed Susans to further prevent erosion and take up the clean water.

The native plants in the rain garden also serve as invaluable habitat for migrating Monarch butterflies. The rain garden is now a certified Monarch Waystation.

Since Winston Hall is home to the university’s Biology Department and Environmental Program, this garden will also provide a useful outdoor laboratory for biology and environmental science students in Winston Hall. Professors from the Biology Department have already expressed interest in mapping the site and charting its growth, as part of their curriculum.

By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern

10 Days Celebration: Wednesday, April 25

April 24th, 2012

  • Nathan Atkinson– Mr. Atkinson is a defense attorney with Spilman Thomas and Battle. He will draw on his experience litigating complex multi-party lawsuits involving drilling, hydraulic fracturing, water contamination and toxic torts arising from exposure to various chemicals and naturally occurring elements.
  • Dick Schneider, J.D. – Mr. Schneider is a professor of environmental and international business law at the WFU School of Law. He serves on the Environmental Committee of the North Carolina State Bar Association.
  • Dr. Lucas Johnston – WFU Departments of Religion and Environmental Studies – Dr. Johnston is trained in sustainability studies and environmental and religious ethics. He teaches a course in the Environmental Studies program on energy policy and sustainability.
  • Moderator: Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Sustainability Director, WFU

This panel discussion is free and open to the public.


10 Days Celebration: Tuesday, April 24

April 23rd, 2012

Join Z. Smith Reynolds Library and the Office of Sustainability for a free screening of the film, Gasland. Explore the controversial world of hyrdrofracturing (fracking) for natural gas in preparation for the panel discussion on April 25.

Gasland Screening

When: 6:00 p.m.

Where: Z. Smith Reynolds Library, 4th Floor Auditorium

This screening is free and open to the public.

From the Gasland web site: “The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown.”

10 Days Celebration: Friday, April 20

April 20th, 2012

Join prominent university community members for an historic event honoring our campus trees. Years of hard work and dedication from Landscaping Services staff have resulted in national recognition for the university.

Then grab a group of friends and sign-up to participate in the Cardboard Boat Race. You have all weekend to craft a vessel that will make it from one end of the Reynolds Gym pool and back (twice!). The boat judging and races will be held Sunday, April 22.

2nd Annual Arbor Day Celebration

When: 4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Where: Courtyard between Babcock and Johnson, near the volleyball courts

Landscaping Services, the Office of Sustainability, and Residence Life and Housing invite you to join us for Wake Forest’s second annual Arbor Day Celebration.  Two trees will be planted in honor of the occasion and we will hear from several prominent members of the university community about the important role of trees on our campus.

Following the planting ceremony, guests are encouraged to enjoy refreshments courtesy of Residence Life and Housing.

Cancelled: Cardboard Boat Race: Materials pick-up

When: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Where: The Office of Sustainability (Reynolda 101)

Gather a few friends and sign-up anytime today for the Cardboard Boat Race. Read the full rules and register here, then pick up free cardboard and 2 rolls of duct tape, courtesy of Campus Recreation. You may purchase extra duct tape, but keep in mind that you cannot use any other materials for your boat!   You have until Sunday at 1 p.m. to build a pool-worthy vessel.

Questions? Contact Jessica Finnerty, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Aquatics, (336) 758-3490 or