Beeches and Cherry Trees on Campus

How many, many things / They call to mind / These cherry-blossoms!
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So wrote the Edo-era poet Matsuo Bashō. Native to Japan, the tree is a cultural icon. In full bloom for only a short, glorious moment, the blossoms—sakura in Japanese—speak to a key concept: mono no aware, an awareness of the transience of life. Even the common name of the weeping cherry, Higan, derives from Ohigan, a Buddhist memorial celebration centered around the spring and autumnal equinoxes. 

For Bryn Mawr, too, cherry trees have a special significance. Come spring, campus comes alive with an explosion of pink blossoms—the weeping Higan cherry trees that bloom in April and double-flowered Kwanzan shortly after. Their arrival signals the end of a long winter and the imminent arrival of spring, with its own celebratory event: May Day.


Son of a Beech

On the rise overlooking the athletic fields is a stand of majestic copper beeches that forms a secluded hideaway, complete with benches and Adirondack chairs. Among them is a particularly impressive specimen (GPS Coordinates: 40.02817, -75.315087). Planted in 1914, it is on Pennsylvania's State Championship Tree listing. 

A natural mutant of the common beech, the Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Atropunicea') emerged in Europe early in the 15th century. It didn’t arrive in North America until the early 19th century. In 1807, Thomas Jefferson planted two specimens at Monticello; one survived into the 1950s and the other into the 1970s. 


It's a Family Affair

Along with beeches, oaks (Quercus) and chestnuts (Castanea) are members of the Fagaceae family—and generously represented on campus:

  • American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) | 40.02875, -75.314946 
  • Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) | 40.02741, -75.312634 
  • Weeping Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’) | 40.02801, -75.314781 
  • Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) | 40.025613, -75.312664 near Wyndham  
  • Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) | 40.02763, -75.314889  
  • Red Oak (Quercus rubra) | 40.02756, -75.313542    
  • White Oak (Quercus alba) | 40.02767, -75.313379 
  • Willow Oak (Quercus phellos) | 40.026254, -75.311949 near Cartref  

The Weeping Higan Cherry Tree

  • Profile: Grows to 20 to 30 feet in height and spreads 15 to 25 feet, with slender branches that droop in a graceful cascade.  
  • Bark: Initially copper-bronze in color and becoming gray and scaly with age.
  • Leaves: Glossy green throughout the summer and bright yellow in the fall.
  • Flowers: Semi-double, pale pink flowers that grow in clusters of four to eight blossoms and bloom in mid to late April.
  • Fruit: Small oval stone fruits hidden by the foliage and ripening from red to black in the autumn. 






 

Copper Beach

  • Profile: Oval to pyramidal in shape with dense foliage and a typical height of 50 to 75 feet. (Our Champion was measured at 66.1 feet in 2007.)
  • Bark: Smooth, pewter-gray, and so delicate that carvings remain because the tree cannot heal itself.
  • Leaves: Coppery to deep purple in color. In a phenomenon known as marcescence, they can remain, dry and brown, on the tree until spring.
  • Flowers: Monecious (with both male and female flowers on the same tree). In spring, the male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.
  • Fruit: Edible, triangular-shaped nuts (also called “mast”) enclosed in husks that ripen in fall.