Urban Nature

Human Nature


Urban ecosystems are the ultimate manifestation of the dynamic conflict between humans and nature: the desire for neat, orderly landscapes on one hand and the fear of messy ecological chaos on the other. Dr, Del Tredici focuses on the ecological significance of the plants that grow without cultivation in cities because of their remarkable ability to flourish in spite of stressful environmental conditions. This spontaneous urban vegetation is as cosmopolitan as the city’s human population and, quite frankly, better adapted to our changing environmental conditions than the native species that once grew there. Like it or not, these so-called novel ecosystems have become the new ecological normal and people need to recognize that they are helping not only to make our cities more livable for people and animals but also to clean up the mess we have made of the planet.


Peter Del Tredici, PhD

Peter Del Tredici is a botanist specializing in the growth and development of trees. He retired from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in 2014 after working there for 35 years in a variety of capacities including Director of Living Collections. He taught in the Landscape Architecture Department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1992 through 2016 and the Urban Planning Department at MIT from 2016 through 2019. He has published over a hundred scientific articles on a wide variety of subjects including, the ecology and taxonomy of hemlocks, magnolias and stewartias, the history of plant introductions from Japan and China, and the natural and cultural history of the Ginkgo tree. Since 2004, his research has focused on urban ecology and climate change, and in 2010 he published the widely acclaimed, “Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide” (Cornell University Press; 2nd edition 2020).

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