Campus Trees

[The following article was published in the February 15, 1940 issue of Reed College Notes (vol. 2, No. 10). Copyright ©1940 Reed College]

Who knows what trees can be found on the Reed campus? Are there any there that are particularly interesting or unique?

A plan has recently been approved of by the Regents for making a survey of our campus trees and for marking those growing in much frequented locations with labels giving their names, both scientific and common, and indicating their geographic range. Particularly interesting specimens are now being replanted where they will be noticed and where they will lend beauty to their surroundings. This involves some extensive re-landscaping of the campus, which is being done by Mr. Harvey Davis, Superintendent of Grounds and Buildings, under the direction of Miss Elizabeth Lord and Miss Edith Schryver, landscape architects of Salem, and of two of our regents, Mrs. Elliott Corbett and Miss Isabella Gauld.

First in point of interest among our unique trees are two Ginkos. These pretty “maiden-hair trees” have within the past month been replanted, one on either side of the walk leading up to the library. Asking a student what he thought they were, I was rewarded by the reply: “They look like naked Christmas trees!” Anyone will see what he meant who examines the branching of these trees as compared with the branching of a hard-wood. Try to find flowers on them at any time of the year! It can’t be done, for these trees are “living fossils” – ancient, primitive plants more closely related to the Conifers than to any other familiar trees. But they are deciduous, and all their pretty leaves, which resemble maiden-hair fronds, are lost on the approach of winter. Interestingly enough, no wild Ginkos are known surely to exist on the globe at the present day, although travelers coming down out of the wilds of central Asia claim to have seen them in that almost unexplored land. For centuries Ginkos have been nurtured on the grounds of Chinese temples as objects of reverence, and we are indebted to the priests for preserving these living representatives of the past. Fossilized Ginkos are commoner in Washington and Oregon than anywhere else in North America. They may be seen in the Fossil Ginko State Park in Washington.

The number of trees of various sorts on the Reed campus has been greatly increased by the unceasing effort of Mr. Davis during his term of office. In the past fifteen years, he has obtained for the college nearly a thousand specimens, some seedlings, some larger. An indication of what this activity means, and will mean, to Reed is to be seen in the two exquisite Sequoias planted at the south edge of the Student Union parking area. When these were set out in 1934, they were mere seedlings. One is now nearly fifteen feet tall! These trees, of which the college has four, are Sequoia Washingtonia, the giant of the Sierras which, as everyone knows grows to be one of the largest plants on the face of the globe. Their perfect symmetry and the fairy-like softness of their foliage makes those we have among the most decorative of our trees on the campus. They do well in Oregon, and grow to great heights. Would that we had more of them!

The remaining giant Douglas-firs still left standing on the campus, remnants of the forest that once covered this area, will not be with us forever. It would be a joy to see a few young firs and great redwoods set out to replace them on the expanse of lawn in front of our main buildings. They would eventually become monumental landmarks, and as destined to be such should be placed where they can grow indefinitely without being moved. These forest kings are the special heritage of those of us living here on the Coast, and should be preserved.

Although there are many beautiful and decorative exotic trees and shrubs which it would be a pleasure to have on our campus, a more laudable and equally pleasing aim would be to complete our collection of natives. At one time Mr. Davis had a greater percentage than he now has of native trees and shrubs, in the collecting of which from all parts of the state he expended considerable effort. A number have been lost because of changes in the landscaping and in constructing new buildings. Would it not be a source of deep satisfaction to be able to show interested visitors to the campus at least one representative of every tree native to Oregon? And this would not be difficult as it sounds, since except for a few species that occur in the far Wallowas or in the southern limits of the state, many of the trees and shrubs which we do not now possess could be obtained nearby. If our native collection were complete, we should not only have a better-decorated campus than at present, but we should also have an invaluable scientific collection with which our students would become familiar.

The list of the campus plants compiled in 1938 by Miss Una Davies of the Department of Biology reveals that out of forty-four species of needle-leaved trees native to Oregon, we have on the campus twenty-eight; and out of fifty-four species of broad-leaved trees (hard-woods), we have thirty-two. This is an excellent start on the project of completing our all-native tree collection.

I anticipate of course that there are those who will say, “Why bother with the natives-we can see them every day!” But can we, and do we? What about the many beautiful plants occurring to the south of us in Curry County and the high Siskiyous, for instance? Many of these trees, although limited in their native range to the southern part of the state, will do well in this region. Again in the high mountain ranges of our state, the sub-alpine areas of Mt. Hood and the Cascades, many of our most beautiful but at the same time fairly common trees occur plentifully. Yet confined to their native areas they are not often seen and recognized except by those who go out looking for them. Among these trees are the beautiful Western White Pine, Pinus monticola, and Western Larch, Larix occidentalis, with its distinctive, light-green, feathery foliage. They should be on the campus. Another beautiful tree that deserves a place in our local setting is the White Fir, Abies concolor, which is a native of the Cascades from the Metolius southward.

Our showing of hard-woods, too, should be increased. The orange-barked Madrona, to name only one, should be here. Happily, we have already two small Oregon Myrtles, which are soon to be set out where they can grow to their perfect symmetrical best, familiar to those who have seen them on our Southern Coast. Another Curry County plant that should be beautifying our campus is the California Lilac, Ceanothus thrysiflorus, with its delicate pale blue blooms.

Lists of the plants we lack are available. Many seedlings put into the hands of our Mr. Davis have in the past years grown to be things of great beauty. Let us combine native beauty with instructional value and make our collection unique. Who will help?