Labor Day Weekend V
Bill Long 9/2/07
Reed College and its Trees I, Maps 1-4, 18
I wrote an earlier essay on a few of the trees of Reed College in Portland, where I taught from 1982-88. As I mentioned in that essay, Reed has broken down its campus into 33 grids of trees, with online maps identifying each one of the trees. Then there are discussions of each species of tree that is on campus, with ample photographs. The purpose of this essay is to help "correct," "improve" or possibly "laud" the online materials as a result of walks I have done through the campus. I have now gone through 17 of the grids twice, and I have not only learned a tremendous amount, but I think the suggestions I give below will aid others in learning about these tall friends on campus. This essay will begin with the grids I have walked through twice. My hope is to "cover" the rest of the campus soon with an additional walk or two and then summarize my findings here.
A Dreamy Start--Through a Glass Clearly, with a Comment on Map 18
Before I begin my "map by map" comments, however, I want to start with a mention of Reed's "unique" tree. As I mentioned in this essay, Prof. Bert Brehm planted Reed's only Castor Aralia (Kalopanax septemlobus) in 1972. I think there is one also in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland but nowhere else in Oregon that I know of. I knew of the tree's existence and had searched for it previously (all the guide to map 18 says is that it is "in the canyon behind the chemistry building"), but was unable to find it. With some additional online searching, I discovered that it was planted directly outside the large "picture window" in the stairwell of the Scott Chemistry Building. Thus, the description of Map 18 should be changd to say the following:
"Reed's only Kalopanax semptemlobus is located in the canyon behind the chemistry building and can ideally be seen from the chemistry department building stairwell."
If the description had said that, you would know precisely where the tree is. I was fortunate today (Sunday) to find the chemistry building open. While students were scurrying to their lab, I perched on the landing between the first and second floors, and had a bird's eye view of the Aralia. It was a stupendous sight. The leaves are among the biggest I have seen; they are comparable in size to those on a Northern Catalpa's or an Empress tree or the biggest leaves of a Big-Leaf Maple. Above the leaves are clusters of black berries, perhaps 50 in a cluster, which will soon become food for the birds, I presume.
What "made my day" about the Kalopanax, however, was the realization that there are no "ground" or "lower storey" leaves; they begin about 15'-20' feet up the tree. Thus, the tree not only showed off its splendor to me when I was about 15' above the ground on the stairwell, but the branches were inclined towards the large windows of the building, so that the leaf and berries were no more than a foot on the other side of the clear glass. Professor Brehm is to be commended for knowing exactly where to plant the tree so that students 35 years later would get a perfect look at it. How many of us can say that our work today will be perfectly received as it is intended in 35 years?
In addition, the Map 18 description says that there is an identifying tag on the tree. I didn't find one, and I don't think I was "barking" up the wrong tree. With this suggestion for improving Map 18, let's go one by one.
Map 1 presents the 31 trees on the extreme Northwest of campus. All 31 trees are still standing and were correctly identified, though I don't understand the logic of calling the Prunus cerasifera a "Thundercloud Plum" (Tree 18) and a "Cherry Plum" (Tree 20). One common or popular name should suffice. Also, there is a new path from the NW corner of campus to the jogging track. The "revised map" should show this path, slicing as it does between trees 15 and 16 and then heading SE to the track. Third, the map doesn't include two European beeches which are to the West of tree no. 1, nor a pine (Austrian?) which is located just South of these two beeches. I think the reason these weren't included was that, at the time of the map, Reed's boundary may not have included these trees. But, if you draw a line due South from the westernmost beech, you include other Reed trees (such as an interesting Salix matsudana in Map 5); I would suggest that a revision name these three other trees.
There are several interesting trees in Map 1. We have a rare Picea omorika (Serbian spruce). The only other place I could find them in Oregon was in the Hoyt Arboretum (2 exemplars). Three White Ashes (Fraxinus americana) can be compared with a European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), just as two Oregon Ashes (Fraxinus latifolia) can be compared with a White Ash in Map 16. Indeed, I have discovered that my home town of Salem uses about 10 varieties of Ash for street trees in my town. The popular ones are Autumn Purple Ash, which is a White Ash, some Mountain Ashes, which are different from the others by their bright orange berries, and a "flame" and "flowering" ash. The latter is a Fraxinus ornus. There is also a Abies concolor or White Fir, with its two inch long, rigid, spiny needles. It is a popular Christmas tree in the NW.
Maps 2, 3, and 4
Maps 2 and 3 can be handled very quickly, since they just include 12 and 19 trees, respectively, as you move in an Easterly direction from Map 1. Nine of the 12 and eight of the 19 are young European Beeches, which were probably planted about 20 years ago (it would be helpful for the maps to say when they were planted). Five of the remaining 11 from Map 3 are Gleditsia triacanthos (Thornless Honeylocusts). There must be 40 of these trees around campus, mostly surrounding the parking lots in the West side of campus. All identifications in the maps are correct. Tree 7 in Map 3, a European Beech, isn't doing very well, however. It may be close to death.
Map 4 has numbers going up to 30, but in fact there are only 27 trees that now stand in the area covered by Map 4. Trees 19, 22 and 29 have been removed (the Map only indicates that Tree 22 has been removed). Most of the trees are Zelkova serratas (18/27 trees), and they line the North entry road to the campus. A few Schubert Choke Cherries and one Dawn Redwood catch the eye.
Total trees so far-- 31 + 12 + 19 + 27= 89 trees. Of this 89, 19 are Zelkovas, 24 are European Beeches, 8 are European Bird Cherries 7 are Thornless Honeylocusts. Thus, nearly 65% of the trees in these four Maps are of four species. Things will rapidly change.
Things begin to get interesting in Maps 5-8, which the next essay addresses.