With spring in the air I find myself taking leisurely walks through campus again, and my attention has turned lately to the many beautiful trees that grace our grounds. Can you tell me which is the oldest tree on campus?
— Just Curious
Dear Idle Questioner,
We took your question to Bob Gutowski, director of public programs at the Morris Arboretum. Here’s what he said: “We have an inventory of all the trees on campus. Tree core samples would be necessary to accurately date trees. The next best indicator of age is an assessment of size, species and location. The oldest trees would most likely be found near the oldest buildings with the least history of destructive landscape disturbance.
In Penn’s top-10 sized trees, you will find two American Elms and one Siberian Elm in Levy Park. At the Penn Alexander School you will find a Red Oak, Willow Oak and London Plane tree in the top-10 list. In the top 20 there are eight London Planes and four American Elms, species typical of the late 19th-century and early 20th-century streetscapes.
An American Elm over Ben’s right shoulder is the biggest tree measured on campus (154 inch circumference at breast height, 100 feet spread).”
Speaking of trees, the Arboretum, naturally, has some extraordinary specimens, including a 250-year-old Bender oak, probably the largest known Katsura tree in North America (the leaves are a lovely light pink right now) and a regal Engler beech.
To find out more about the Arboretum’s “major” trees, visit www.business-services.upenn.edu/arboretum/majortrees3.html.
Originally published on April 27, 2006