The Trees of Wellesley College

April 27, 2012

On Arbor Day, We Take a Moment to Appreciate Our Magnificent Trees

Wellesley’s campus is full of beautiful trees and they play an integral part of the Wellesley experience. Beyond providing a lush backdrop and lots of oxygen to the campus, they are central to a long-held tradition. Every fall, during Friends and Family Weekend, the sophomore class communally plants a tree. This tree-planting tradition goes back to 1879. Walking around campus, one can see stones in front of various trees, commemorating their class’ graduation years.

Know Your Trees

We asked Kristina Jones, director of the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens, and John Olmsted, manager of landscape at the College, to share a few facts about the campus’ trees.

How Many?

There are approximately 8,000 trees on the Wellesley campus.

Oldest?

The white oaks (Quercus alba), which pre-date the College’s founding.

Youngest?

A grouping of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) planted last fall near the library.

Tallest?

The tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) in the Botanic Gardens.

Rarest?

The dawn redwood, the Franklinia, and the golden larch trees.

Most Common Class Tree Species?

Red oak (Quercus rubra).

Edible?

There are many edible trees on campus, including the black walnuts (Juglans nigra), hickories, American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), ginkgo biloba, pawpaw (Asimina trilby), sassafras albidum, black birch (Betula nigra), mulberry, apple, and various chestnut species.

The College loses about 20 to 25 trees a year to storms, pests/diseases, structural problems, and other issues.

Not all original class trees are still standing, but they are replaced. The class of 1879’s tree fell during Hurricane Irene in 2011, but has since been replaced by a young Norway spruce (Picea abies).

Every fall, the Botanic Gardens hosts a Magical Tree Tour, which focuses on a specific culture’s connection to trees. Next up: A tour highlighting East Asia.

Learn more at the Botanic Gardens website.




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