‘Tree mobs’ take over Arboretum

The Arnold Arboretum is welcoming literal mobs of community members who want to learn about trees.

“Tree mobs,” informal, short-notice outdoor gatherings to educate the public about a particular aspect of a particular plant in the Arboretum’s collection, started this summer and will continue through the winter, Arboretum Manager of Adult Education Pam Thompson told the Gazette.

“I just like being out there, right next to the trees, with members of the community who like it, too,” Arboretum Director William “Ned” Friedman said. He had the original idea of short-notice, outdoor classes in the Arboretum.

Visiting experts or Arboretum staffers —Friedman included—talk on any point of interest, from the personal history of a particular plant to the species’ reproductive habits to how to build a wooden ship.

“We had a professor from MIT talk about the engineering properties of plants,” Friedman told the Gazette. “[Tree mobs] are all really fun.”

Styled after “flash mobs”—whimsical gatherings usually organized through social media—Tree mobs are “a really fun way to look at the collection,” Thompson said.

“We started with the fundamental notion that indoor programs in the summer were a bad idea,” Friedman said. They soon realized that keeping gatherings affordable would help them thrive—so the free and nearly impromptu Tree mobs came into being.

During the summer months, from May to August, mobs happen about once a week. During the winter, they are a bit more sporadic, with maybe two or three in one month.

The half-hour gatherings have, at most, four days’ notice. There is an email list and a few signs posted on the grounds on the day—and that’s it, Thompson said. To find out more about upcoming tree mobs, visit bit.ly/TreeMob.


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