For more than 30 years, Williamsburg’s Raymond M. Sutton Jr. has been planting trees. He can still remember where he bought most of the trees and where he had to go to get it.
University of the Cumberlands staff planted a Red Buckeye tree dedicated to Sutton on the lawn of the Correll Science Complex during the Arbor Day celebration Friday.
“Never in a million years do you expect something like this. I am also honored to be able to sit on the tree committee here on campus. I am even providing some input. I think I had some input on this Red Buckeye,” Sutton said with a chuckle.
“It is beautiful. It has like grand candelabra type flowers. It fills up with that. It is totally red. It’s a great tree for hummingbirds. It will really stand out.”
The University of the Cumberlands is a Tree Campus USA member through the National Arbor Day Foundation, which means that all the trees that the university plants have to be native to Kentucky, Sutton noted.
UC’s Tree Program Committee hosted Friday’s Arbor Day celebration on campus during which time the campus and community were welcome to hear more about the benefits of trees.
To date, Cumberlands has planted 20 native species of trees on campus, with a yearly goal of planting 10 native trees.
“This is a way we can reflect an appreciation of our history, as many native tree species are economically and culturally significant in Appalachia,” said Dr. Sarah Ash, a biology professor at Cumberlands. “It is also a tool to increase appreciation for native species.”
“Too many exotic species have been introduced into regions where they don’t belong, which always ends up being a detriment to other, native species,” added Dr. Todd Yetter, also a biology professor. “As a note, we are not cutting down any already-planted exotic trees; rather, when the exotics die, they will be replaced with native species.”
Possibly because trees seem so commonplace, the understanding of their ecological significance is often lost. The National Arbor Day Foundation’s website sheds light on the impact trees have.
According to the site, trees not only clean air and water (which is crucial to maintaining the health of all forms of life), they also slow climate change, ease poverty and hunger (via fruit trees, for example) and prevent species loss.
Besides that, and in addition to simply looking beautiful, trees absorb so much carbon dioxide that, if all available spaces along U.S. streets had trees planted in them, the country could save up to $4 billion in current energy costs, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Sutton’s family has lived in the Williamsburg area for four generations, and many of his family members were on hand for Friday’s ceremony.
Sutton, who is a local businessman, gardener and plant collector, attended Cumberland College before completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Kentucky. Additionally, he is a member of the Magnolia Society International and the American Hydrangea Society, and has been an avid plant collector for the past 30 years.
He is married to Sandra Moore Sutton; they have a daughter Laura (Lexington), a son Raymond (Chip) Sutton, III (Louisville), and three grandchildren.