Four Seasons of Campus Trees

We asked Tom Clark, director and curator of the Mount Holyoke Botanic Garden, to list notable campus trees that were sure to delight in every season.

Fall foliage at Upper Lake
Trees on Campus
In fall, changing foliage takes center stage:

  • Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) – in front of the Art Museum – Fallen autumn leaves smell of burnt sugar!
  • Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) – at entrance to Mary Woolley hall – Delicate white flowers in summer continue to bloom into fall, when they are joined by scarlet foliage.
  • Sugar maples (Acer saccharum) – surrounding Mary Lyon’s grave – Leaves turn a classic New England reddish gold in early October.
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) – in front of the Art Museum – All leaves on the tree turn a brilliant and unanimous gold, and then drop all at once in October, creating a golden carpet.
  • American Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus)in front of Torrey – Clouds of pink flowers in summer are joined by scarlet foliage in fall.
  • Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica)at the main entrance to Torrey – Golden pink leaves last for most of the fall, and peeling, marbled bark complements the picture.
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – in front of Ham Hall – Mitten-shaped leaves turn a brilliant range of orange to red in late September. 

In winter, although leaves are off the trees, there is still plenty to see:

  • Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) – Willits-Hallowell Courtyard – bronzy, cinnamon bark self-exfoliates (please don’t peel it yourself!) to reveal the tree’s rosy interior.
  • Weeping European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Vienna Weeping’) – Heckel Staircase & Gardens between Clapp and Talcott Greenhouse – The architectural, weeping form of this tree is much easier to see in winter.
  • Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) – northeast corner of Reese, directly opposite Torrey – Note the curved bark arranged in long, shaggy plates.
  • Corneliancherry dogwood (Cornus mas) – between Clapp Hall and Mary Lyon’s grave – Bright, dense, forsythia-colored yellow flowers in March signal the end of winter. In Summer, its fruits can be made into jam!

In spring, dogwoods, magnolias, and crabapples can be found in colorful bloom all over campus. Also look for:

  • Eastern redbud (Cercis Canadensis ‘Tennessee Pink’) – Betty Shabazz House – In April, shockingly pink, fragrant flowers line the branches. See, too, the related Chinese redbud (Cercis chinensis) at the Equestrian Center.
  • Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis ‘Snowcloud’) – Drue Matthews Garden next to the Art Museum – In April, clouds of delicate white flowers unfold over bronze leaves.
  • Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina) – left (west) side of Career Development Center – In April, clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers emerge.
  • Zen magnolia (Magnolia zenii) – between Kendade and Clapp – A critically endangered tree in its native range in the high mountains of China, look for its large pink and white blooms in May.

In summer, unexpected blooms are everywhere on campus:

  • Ashe’s magnolia (Magnolia ashei) – Virginia Craig ’31 Rhododendron Garden beside the Art Museum – Foot-long leaves and fragrant, volleyball-sized white flowers shade and perfume the area.
  • Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) – Bullard garden outside Abbey Chapel – Showy white flowers bloom in July, foliage is vibrant in fall, and marbled bark is attractive year-round.
  • Amur maackia (Maackia amurensis) – in front of Buckland Hall – Sprays of white flowers smell like honey and are a favorite for bees.
  • Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Heart Throb’) – northeast corner of Brigham – Unlike most Kousa dogwoods, which bloom white, this cultivar’s blooms are a rich pink, emerging in June.
  • Golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) – back side of Eliot House, on the fringe of Pageant Field – Spectacular, draping yellow blossoms in summer give way to papery “lantern” seed capsules in fall.

We’d love to receive photos of your favorite campus trees.

Email them to us at

Read more about trees on campus.

2 responses to “Four Seasons of Campus Trees”

  1. Jeanie jones says:

    Great article. Would love to see the location of the “top 20” trees on a campus map so we could take a self tour. Involve alums in selecting spot/species for a reunion tree. Perfect for a reunion activity.

  2. Wilma J Hanson (Baldwin) says:

    As a graduate student in Chemistry who came from Northern WI I totally loved spring at Mt. Holyoke. From my 8 AM seat in P. chem in Carr I had the most wonderful view of the Flowering Dogwood and the huge Copper Beech Tree adjacent to the library and totally in view from the P Chem classroom in Carr. The chemistry was tough; the trees an inspiration.!

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