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Introduction to Campus Ecology

When Europeans settled this region, short-grass prairie covered the area where dorms and academic buildings now stand. With hopes of creating a greener and more lush campus, people have manufactured the landscape and ecology of Colorado College since its founding in 1874. Currently less than 10 percent of the landscape on campus is occupied by native plant species. The nonnative Kentucky bluegrass looks nice and tolerates heavy use very well, but requires at least twice as much water as normally falls in this area (Colorado College does use recycled water to irrigate the majority of its quads). The beautiful deciduous trees on campus are also not native to this area but were imported mostly from the much wetter regions of eastern North America and survive due to the same irrigation that allows the Kentucky bluegrass to thrive. Over 80 percent of the landscape on campus consists of non-native grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, rye grass) or non-native trees. Areas dedicated to native turf exist around the Grounds Shop, the Synergy Houses, North Palmer Quad Parking area, the Southwest Studies Department and Cutler Hall.

 Fox squirrels, brown with an occasional black individual, thrive in this environment; students even occasionally see a hawk predate a squirrel. The most prominent birds include rock doves (a European import), American robins, and the American crow. At the pond on the other side of Monument Creek, you will likely see Canada geese and mallards, and if you walk north along the creek from Uintah Street, you might see red foxes, especially at dusk.

Landscape Statistics

Total Landscaped Area

67 acres

Total Irrigated Turf:

35.5 acres

Total Flower & Shrub Beds:

2.5 acres

Hardscape: Parking Lots, Walkways & Plazas Roads & Driveways, Tennis Courts

29.0 acres

(Estimates from former Grounds Manager Jerry Switzer)

Trees on campus

There are approximately 1,665 trees on campus. The percentage of existing trees native to the Colorado College campus climate zone is very small, as the campus was originally just a short grass prairie with a riparian belt along Monument Creek on the west side of the college. Although many of the trees on campus would not grow naturally in the historic short grass prairie, the richness of species diversity has educational and aesthetic value and supports its own urban ecosystem.

  • Native low elevation trees on the campus:
  • Plains cottonwoods
  • Gambel oak
  • Trees that are native to nearby higher altitudes:
  • Engelmann spruce
  • Blue spruce
  • Ponderosa pine
  • Limber pine
  • Bristlecone pine
  • Pinyon pine
  • Rocky Mountain juniper
  • Douglas fir
  • White fir
  • Non-native climate-appropriate trees:
  • Tatarian maple
  • Hackberry
  • Other trees
  • Box elder
  • Siberian elm
  • European linden
  • Green ash

Native Shrubs

  • Mountain mahogany
  • Rabbitbrush
  • Rocky Mountain maple
  • Three-toothed sage
  • Chokecherry
  • Currants
  • Wild rose
  • Apache plume
  • Caragana or Siberian pea shrub


  • Native species
    • Little bluestem
    • Big bluestem
    • Blue grama
    • Buffalo grass
  • Non-native, climate-appropriate grasses:
    • Blue avena
    • Switchgrass
    • Feather reed grass
  • Quads and sod landscape
    • Kentucky bluegrass
    • Rye grass

Contributing Editors: Jim Ebersole, Tass Kelso, Lee Farese, Jerry Switzer