Generosity grows here

December 15, 2019 at 8:00 AM


Mount Holyoke College is known for its stunning campus: from the majestic stone buildings to its lush, varied greenery. Contributing to MHC’s beautiful campus landscape are the various trees that are scattered across campus. Dating back to the earliest plans presented in the late 19th century by acclaimed landscape architects, the Olmsted Brothers, the trees of Mount Holyoke have long been admired as an important part of the campus terrain.

Original Olmsted Brothers landscape design for MHC

The Mount Holyoke College campus features 1,200 planted trees, and thousands more native trees populate the forested areas of Prospect Hill and Lower and Upper Lakes. The more than 175 species of planted trees hail from dozens of countries and serve as the silent sentries of Mount Holyoke’s past, present and future.

One of the most notable trees in Mount Holyoke’s history is an old black walnut tree that once grew in front of Williston Library. The tree was dedicated in honor of two separate Mount Holyoke classes: 1912 and 1916. According to campus legend, the tree originated as a walking stick that a visitor from Ohio had stuck in the ground, which then took root and sprouted into a sprawling one-hundred and twenty foot tall tree.

Mount Holyoke students with fallen black walnut tree, 1917Unfortunately, a strong wind irreparably damaged the tree in 1917, when it was 128 years old. While the campus was saddened at the loss of the cherished tree, its wood was repurposed for the entrance paneling in the newly-built Clapp Laboratory so it could live on as a part of campus. The wood was also used to make knitting needles, coat hangers and gavels for club meetings, which were subsequently purchased by alumnae to support the Endowment Fund Campaign. 

Another famous tree on campus is the sprawling copper beech that sits between the Williston Library and Dwight Hall. Planted in 1904 by Mount Holyoke botany professor Asa Kinney, the tree was to commemorate the birth of his daughter, Elizabeth Kinney Worley, class of 1924. Now well over one hundred years old, the copper beech has become a fixture on campus: enchanting members of the campus community and visitors alike through the seasons, with especially beautiful colors in the spring and autumn. 

Unbeknownst to many who stroll the campus grounds, a large number of Mount Holyoke’s trees are dedicated to memorialize or honor generous alumnae, family and friends of the College. Those who give through the Landscape and Arboretum Tribute Fund can have a plaque affixed to an existing tree or a new bench on campus. Many Mount Holyoke classes also have their own class tree after coming together and raising funds to benefit the College. All of these commemorative trees serve as beautiful tributes to those who have made the Mount Holyoke experience possible for current and future students. 

*Gifts to the Landscape and Arboretum Tribute Fund begin at $10,000.

Pictured above, from top: (1) Mount Holyoke's copper beech stands proud between Williston Library and Dwight Hall. (2) Original color plan by Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, 1900, photo courtesy of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections. (3) The famous black walnut tree of Mount Holyoke College just after it blew down, July 21, 1917 — the young ladies are students who stayed in South Hadley during the summer to tend the war gardens, photo courtesy of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

Want to learn more about the trees of Mount Holyoke?

Rachel Nix ’20

Written by Rachel Nix ’20

Rachel, a politics major and sociology minor, is a marketing assistant in the Office of Advancement and a contributor to the MHC Forever blog. Hailing from West Virginia, she serves on MHC’s Admissions and Financial Aid Advisory Committee, is deeply involved with social justice initiatives and loves spending her free time with friends, reading on the green or trying to pet Jorge, the goose.