Harvard Yard Tree Trip

By Michael Genecin

It has been a while since this trip happened, but hey, better late than never! It turned out to be a really fun trip and we might be doing a few more when the weather warms up this spring, so keep an eye out if you are interested.

In mid-November, I led a ‘tree trip’ around the yard. The idea was to find trees around campus that we could climb, learn about them, and maybe try to find some cool things up in the trees. Though the trees had already lost most of their leaves, the weather was just cool enough for a sweater, and it turned out to be perfect day for some climbing.

We started off at the barker center, climbing an oak species (we never settled on exactly which, because all of the leaves had fallen and been raked away). It had large boughs, so we thought it would be an easy climb because it would be easier to balance, but it turned out the bigger boughs are actually harder climb because they are harder to grasp and there is usually more space between them. Only a couple of us made it up past the first bough. From up in the tree, we talked about oaks, some of the different species and where they could be found, and tried to guess which species this one was.



Things were getting romantic up in the tree



View from the top of the oak!

Then we moved into the yard and climbed the yews next to memorial church. We couldn’t get very high up because they weren’t tall trees, but they were fun because they had so many tightly packed branches going in different directions you could climb all around in them with ease. In terms of the lessons learned in this part of the trip, people did not find yews so interesting, so we mostly talked about the dawn redwoods across the path. These redwoods were once thought to have been extinct since the Mesozoic Era until a small population was found in a remote valley in China in 1944. Naturalists at Harvard’s very own Arnold Arboretum brought seeds back to the U.S. to begin growth trials, and the tree has now been reintroduced in several parts of China and is a popular ornamental. We decided not to climb these historic, once-endangered trees.

We then moved on to some of the trees in front of Canaday; the big central one being a crab apple and the others we could not identify without their leaves, though we suspected them of being some type of chestnut. We climbed these and talked about the birds we saw around Canaday for just a few minutes before we were kicked out by a freshman proctor who didn’t want us to hurt ourselves on her turf.

Finally, we wrapped up the trip by watching the sun set from the observatory on top of the science center. We even decided we would try to make watching the sunset a new weekly tradition of the club!


Sunset on the roof!

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