Trees

The following are short pieces on notable trees, and events concerning trees, on campus:

The Copper Beech A Birthday Tribute

Written in honor of the Copper Beach for the centennial anniversary of its planting, 2004.

Nestled between the Library Annex and Dwight, at the northern end of the MHC campus, the beautiful Copper Beech is just over 100 years old, and is probably one of the most well-known trees on campus. The Copper Beech was planted in 1904 by Asa Kinney, a much-loved professor of botany at Mount Holyoke College. The tree was planted to commemorate the birth of Kinney’s daughter, Carolyn.

Also known by its scientific name, Fagus sylvatica, Atropupurea Group, the Copper Beech evokes the archetypical beauty of trees, and has endeared itself to the campus community with its tiny, pointy and delicate cigar-shaped buds, smooth and expansive gray trunk and branches, and most stunningly, its copper foliage. The foliage arrives in late spring, a translucent burgundy pink flush of leaves, deepening to a dark burgundy through summer, and finally turning a pleasing cognac color come fall.

In the 100 years since it was planted, the Copper Beech has grown to majestic proportions, and now stands over 80 feet high, with a trunk diameter of over six feet! Anyone who has paused beneath the Copper Beech to marvel at the mass of smooth gray branches above, will be able to attest to the grandeur of this enormous tree, growing in our midst. And grow it has, throughout the campus’ many changes.

Throughout several major construction projects on the northern end of campus during the late 1990’s to mid 2000’s, the Copper Beech has been actively protected from soil compaction, root disturbance and branch breakage. As we pause now to look up and celebrate the birthday-planting year of the Copper Beech, consider how people have worked to protect the tree through the years, and imagine ways you can protect the tree for the future.

Sugar Maple Grove

Acer saccharum, Quercus species

An interesting feature on campus is the Sugar Maple Grove surrounding Mary Lyon’s Grave, between the Chapel and the Amphitheatre. The Sugar Maple Grove was planted in 1848, under the direction of Mary Lyon, by a man named Lucius ‘Toot’ Hyde. Hyde collected trees from nearby mountains (probably the Holyoke Range), and helped arrange them on campus to replicate a natural planting.

Trees included in the original planting were Slippery Elm, American Elm, Birches, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Norway Maple, White Oak, Butternut, Basswood, Hop hornbeam, Larch and Carolina Poplar. Today, the grove is predominantly composed of Sugar Maples and Oak trees, and gracefully overarches the center of campus.

Black Walnut

Juglans nigra, Class Tree for classes of 1912, 1916, and 1920

An enormous Black Walnut tree used to grow in front of the Library, and was designated the class tree for several Mount Holyoke classes. According to legend, the tree originated as a walking stick that a visitor from Ohio stuck into the ground. The walking stick proceeded to take root and grew to grand proportions, 120 feet high with an equally wide crown and 15 feet in diameter at its base. Unfortunately a strong wind destroyed the much loved walnut in 1917. It was 128 years old at its death. Although many were deeply saddened by the loss of the tree, its wood was saved until it could be used for a meaningful purpose. Today this wood can be seen in the library as paneling on the walls. The remaining wood was made into knitting needles.

The Hurricane of 1938

The Hurricane of 1938 was probably the single most devastating natural disaster of the 20th century for New England. Damage to campus trees was extensive. Records indicate that Mount Holyoke College lost 1,200 trees from this event alone. Major Otto C. Kohler, the superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, started a program to replace the trees in Aril of 1946. Previous efforts to replant the campus were postponed by the U.S. involvement in World War II. Kohler was responsible for the planting of the ‘tree belt’ along College Street, between Park Street and Morgan Street. Kohler’s program helped to replant many of the trees on campus, adding to the beautiful canopy we enjoy today.