The Tree(s) at Stanford

Last weekend, I escaped the warm, near-60 degree temperatures of the DC area to flee to northern California – where I was greeted by three straight days of cold rain. (Sigh). On the bright side, I was visiting my younger son, who is a student at Stanford. Stanford’s unofficial mascot is The Tree, as in

Stanford Tree

As Orange Bowl champs this year, Stanford students have more reason than ever to warn their athletic teams' opponents to "Fear the Tree."

Stanford University, Stanford Tree

Stanford's banners feature a green tree superimposed on a cardinal red "S." You see them all over campus. Here's one next to a newly planted pine tree near the Tressider Student Union.

Over the course of three days, I found enough non-rainy hours to wander the campus and capture some images of an amazing variety of different kinds of trees that work in the northern California climate surrounding Palo Alto and vicinity. Like last year, I saw large numbers of cherry trees in bloom,

Prunus x okame, Stanford University

Cherry trees in bloom near the Main Quad at Stanford in February.

sometimes within yards of palm trees (seriously).

Stanford University campus, cherry trees, palm trees

Same cherry trees in background, with tropical palms (variety unknown) in foreground, in the Quad.

There were palms everywhere.

Stanford University

Palm trees frame a view of Hoover Tower on the campus. Nice.

Stanford University, palm trees, Old Union Complex

And around a fountain at the Old Union Complex near White Plaza.

My East Coast eyes recognized the cherry trees, some flowering magnolias, and berry-laden crabapples,

Crabapple tree fruit, Stanford University

Crabapple trees (unknown variety) on Mayfield Road on campus. Lots of fruit! Guess the birds have many other food options in this climate.

and yes, orange trees in full fruit in front of the post office.

Stanford University, orange tree

Hundreds of oranges bedecking two Valencia orange trees in front of the campus post office.

There were also trees, however,  unlike any I have ever seen. If I have any readers who can identify this specimen for me, I’d be forever grateful. Look at the amazing bark!

Stanford University

My "mystery tree" on the Stanford campus. Gorgeous bark! Near the Main Quad. Who can tell me what it is?

For some entertaining speculation on the history of The Tree as Stanford’s unofficial mascot, visit Wikipedia. In closing, one can enjoy The Tree, and its many incarnations on the Stanford Campus, as well as fearing it!

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5 Comments on “The Tree(s) at Stanford”

  1. Sarah Says:

    The tree is a Chorizia speciosa (Silk Floss Tree) at the clock tower. Okay, I cheated. I emailed someone in the Stanford Building and Grounds dept. who kindly replied. There’s actually a lot of info on Standford trees here http://trees.stanford.edu/. And, I wondered if it might be Silk floss but images I found showed a very green-barked tree with lighter spines…. So I’m not sure why your tree looks so different? Anyhow, cool tree and I do know how to waste time investingating such things, but now we know…

  2. John Says:

    Well, to take this one step further, Chorizia speciosa is now apparently Ceiba speciosa. Ceiba is a genus of about 20 trees characterized by those distinctive spiny trunks. I thought I remembered a Ceiba with spiked bark from the large format Photo book on bark by Cédric Pollet and indeed he has a distinctive picture of the Kapok Tree (Ceiba pentandra), a close relative of the Silk Floss Tree.

    • Melissa Says:

      Wow, terrific information – thanks to both of you! And Sarah, I especially appreciate the link to the website with lots of information on the trees on campus. (Those are Valencia orange trees in front of the post office, I learned.)Next time I visit I’ll take the PDF of main-campus trees with me so I’ll feel more knowledgeable.

  3. Desiree Says:

    Hi Melissa – Thank you for sharing your, as usual, beautiful photos. I think the unidentified palm in your photo is a Brahea armata, Mexican Blue Fan Palm. You’d think I would know palms better living and working in California…but people here refer to any number of palms as “fan palms” though there are a gazillion species and varieties 🙂

    • Melissa Says:

      That sounds like a perfect name for that palm, and I appreciate the ID. I really loved the bluish color, Hopefully the next time I’m out there the weather will be a little better and I can wander more widely.


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