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Historic and Significant Trees

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Penn is an urban forest with over 6,500 trees that provide incalculable environmental, cultural, and economic benefits. Trees improve urban air quality, reduce the heat island effect, capture and filter polluted urban runoff, protect against flooding, buffer noise pollution, create wildlife habitat, and much more. Large, old trees enhance the historic character of campus and are a vital part of the green campus we know today. Read through this tour to learn about the oldest, most spectacular trees in our collection, as well as those trees which play a particular historic or cultural role on campus.

London planetree (Platanus × hispanica)

One of the most resilient urban street trees in 19th and 20th century Philadelphia, London planetrees are planted in many locations across campus, particularly along Locust and Woodland Walks.

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Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)

Japanese cryptomeria stand like sentries around the central fountain of the Stoner Courtyard, just outside the Penn Museum. These trees are deeply sacred to the people of Japan.

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Penn Treaty elm (Ulmus americana 'Penn Treaty Elm')

Our Penn Treaty Elm is a descendent of the original American Elm under which William Penn, founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, signed a treaty of friendship with Lenape Chief Tamanend in 1682.

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green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

Mature green ashes are particularly beautiful landscape trees known for a broad oval habit and thick, fissured bark. In autumn, green ash's leaves turn a golden yellow. Despite this tree's tolerance to urban drought, compaction, and pollution, ashes face a significant threat from Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis), an exotic beetle first discovered near Detroit in 2002.

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southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern magnolias are admired for their large, fragrant flowers and dark, lustrous foliage with soft cinnamon undersides. The magnolias along Woodland Walk were planted by Ian McHarg, one of the world’s preeminent landscape architects.

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Quad elm (Ulmus americana 'Quad Elm')

Known affectionately as the quad elm for its location in the Quadrangle Dormitory, this tree is one of the most unique specimens on campus. Unlike most elms, which grow upright, the quad elm has a weeping habit, with trailing branches forming a huge dome-like sanctuary. With an estimated age of several hundred years, the quad elm's canopy sprawls over 85', with a trunk circumference of almost ten feet.

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maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba)

The Maidenhair tree (also known as ginkgo), the oldest living tree on earth, has survived for over 230 million years ago and thrives today as one of the world's most resilient and dependable street trees.

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dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

An incredible 115-foot dawn redwood towers over Kaskey Park (BioPond), where it was planted by Ian McHarg, founder of Penn’s Department of Landscape Architecture, in the 1960s.

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Franklin tree 'Ben's Best' (Franklinia alatamaha 'Ben’s Best')

The Franklin Tree is a rare tree species native to the Alatamaha River in Georgia. It was discovered in 1765 by John Bartram and his son William, who planted wild-collected seeds in Philadelphia at what is now Bartram's Garden. Bartram named this small, graceful tree, which produces fragrant white flowers in July and August, after his friend and colleague, Benjamin Franklin, Penn’s founder.

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star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

The star magnolia is one of the earliest magnolias to flower with slightly fragrant, white to light pink flowers in late March and early April.

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