A field guide to campus trees

Judging by the reaction of many Arches readers to our story about the December 2006 windstorm, we may have given the impression that the storm nearly denuded the campus of trees. Not hardly. Southerly gusts did take about 60 trees, but there are more than 800 others, many of them notable. Here, for summer strolling, a brief field guide.

Fagus grandifolia
Description: Broad tree from 35 to 55 feet tall with rounded crown, strong branches, and edible nuts. The bark of both this and the European Beech have a history of being popular with graffiti artists who favor knives over spray paint. Grows up to 100 feet tall. Also known for its fruit, a small, sweet nut in a spiked husk.
Leaves: Elliptical, ovalish, ridged, with veins and small, sharp serrations ranging in size from 2.5 to 5.5 inches. Leaves turn copper colored in fall.
Bark: Thin and smooth. Grayish in color.
Range: Between Jones Hall and Howarth and McIntyre Halls, and on the east side of Todd Field. (Native to eastern North America.)
Trivia: Not only is the north of the two beech trees at Jones Hall loved by climbers, it’s also popular with those who like to leave their mark in the form of graffiti. “People climb up and carve their names in it,” says grounds manager James Vance. While it may be a tradition, cutting into the tree to carve graduation dates, names, and other messages can hurt it. The grounds crew checks the tree two or three times a year to make sure it hasn’t been damaged. While the south tree is healthy, it doesn’t appear to be as robust or leafy as its northern counterpart because it was damaged in an ice storm. Both trees were moved and replanted when the campus relocated to its current location in the 1920s.

Corylus americana
Description: Small shrub-like tree about 15 feet tall with light-colored catkins, clusters of flowers that hang down like a tassel. It is known for its fruit, a rounded edible nut in a small husk.
Leaves: Rounded to oval, almost heart-shaped, 2 to 3 inches across with serrations.
Bark: Brownish and smooth.
Range: Near Collins Memorial Library. (Native to eastern U.S.)
Trivia: “I don’t think people realize how rare that tree is,” Vance says. The hazelnuts are rarer still. Students who want to try one fresh from the tree will have to fight campus squirrels for it.

Prunus autumnalis
Description: A deciduous tree known for its pink-white flowers, which bloom in early spring, autumn, and during occasional warm periods in winter. Bears half-inch, black fruit.
Leaves: Spiky, ovate, green, approximately 1 to 4 inches long.
Bark: Gray-brown to dark brown.
Range: West side of Wheelock Student Center. (Native to Japan. )
Trivia: Students decorate these trees with paper cranes each spring as a memorial to the 30 Japanese-American students enrolled at the College of Puget Sound who were sent to relocation centers during World War II. Examples of a different variety of cherry tree, on the north side of McIntyre Hall, were planted by the Japanese students themselves in 1942.

Pseudotsuga menziesii
Description: The main component in the river of green that runs the length of the campus, this large, coniferous evergreen is almost cone shaped.
Leaves: Long, thin needles ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches long, with tips that may be either blunt or slightly rounded. Color ranges from light yellow green to blue-green on top with a white stripe underneath.
Bark: On mature plants, thick, red-brown with deep furrows.
Range: Throughout campus. (Native to the Pacific Northwest.)
Trivia: Most of the campus firs survived the winter wind storms, although the tree is subject to the risk of being blown over in a stiff wind if growing in clay or glacial till. When workmen cleared trees felled in the December storm from the arboretum, one with a waggish sense of humor carved a remnant stump into the shape of a mushroom. (It was still there as Arches went to press.) Another, larger tree was cut up and made into a picnic table and benches. For many years, the Douglas fir frustrated classification. Over the years it has been tagged as belonging to the spruce and sequoia families, among others. In fact, it isn’t a fir at all. It’s a member of the pine family. Even its name Pseudotsuga means “false hemlock.”

Sequoiadendron giganteum
Description: A tall, column-like tree that seems to go on forever. At approximately 70 feet, this is one of the highest and most majestic trees on campus, which is in keeping with its characterization as one of the world’s tallest types of trees.
Leaves: Bluish green, flattened scale-like needles that are short and broad. Also described as awl shaped.
Bark: Soft, thick reddish brown with many furrows.
Range: In front of Wheelock Student Center. (In nature, generally restricted to the Sierra Nevada of California.)
Trivia: The Flower Growers Garden Club planted the UPS tree in 1932. Although university officials and the groundskeepers did not know it, students who climbed to the top of the sequoia at night logged their accomplishment in a waterproof tablet, Vance says. The rite of passage and the tablet were discovered when a student fell out of the tree and was injured. “It’s an extremely difficult tree to climb,” Vance added. The contents of the tablet appear to back up his assertion. “There weren’t very many names in it.” (Rumor has it that students are in the process of replacing it with a “Rite in the Rain” waterproof notebook. Appropriate, since “Rite in the Rain” is based in Tacoma and owned by Scott ’74 and Todd ’75 Silver.) A sister sequoia was removed to make way for construction of the science center. While it could not be transplanted, the school is growing another one in the greenhouse using branch cuttings from the original.

Albizia julibrissin
Description: A broad tree with slender branches and an umbrella-type canopy of small, puffy, pink, almost azalea-like flowers with a white base, producing a riot of color when in bloom.
Leaves: Feather-shaped, fern-like compound leaves with lots of leaflets on either side of the stem.
Bark: Smooth, grayish.
Range: Jones Circle, in front of Howarth Hall and McIntyre Hall. (Also in a swath from most of the Eastern Seaboard below New England, down through the Mid- and Southwest, and up to California.)
Trivia: Planted in the 1990s, these campus trees were strategically placed so that people on the second and third floors of buildings would have something pretty outside their windows in mid to late spring, Vance says. Although the best view is from above, these are also attractive when seen from ground level. The tree planted in front of McIntyre Hall honors 30 years of service by Ruby Adams, who worked in Dining and Conference Services. The Howarth Hall tree honors Mike Kinney, a 43-year member of the Facilities Services team.

Stewartia monadelpha
Description: A slow growing, rounded-pyramidal shaped, ornamental deciduous tree with handsome half-inch, white, bell-shaped flowers.
Leaves: 1.5 to 2.5 inches, elliptical to oblong, dark green leaves that turn coppery brown in fall.
Bark: Reddish, almost cinnamon-colored, bark.
Range: Karlan Quad. Also found in a narrow swath on the edges of the U.S., ranging from the Northwest and central California along the Southwest up through the lower Northeast.
Trivia: These were donated by a member of the biology faculty. The Stewartia was planted in 2001 as a replacement for a tree originally planted by the alumni from the Class of 1946.

Zelkova serrata
Description: 15- to 20-foot-tall deciduous tree; ideal for providing shade. Also called “green vase” and often referred to as “vase-shaped,” the tree has a short trunk and branches that grow at tight angles. Often found lining streets.
Leaves: Ovate, tapering to a slender point. Dark green on top, lighter shade on lower side. Leaves often change color in fall with hues running the range from yellow and gold to burgundy.
Bark: Smooth, light grayish, which peels to reveal a layer of orange below.
Range:Along Lawrence Street. (Native of eastern China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.)
Trivia: There is no truth to the rumor that these trees were planted in the 1990s just so the university could say it had trees for every letter from A to Z.

— compiled by David Volk