Deep rooted beauty

Kerry Lester

With the recent cold weather that has hit the Delaware Valley, most students are too busy fighting frostbite to notice their campus surroundings. Whether or not the scenery is fully appreciated, students are privileged to walk upon the grounds of one of the most beautiful universities in the country. While one of the factors is the architecture, Villanova is also home to an amazing collection of trees, making up what is called Arboretum Villanova.

Arboretum Villanova was founded in 1992 upon the 150th anniversary of the University.

In 1994, staff arborist Jim McKee was recognized as a Certified Arborist by the International Society of Arboriculture. Another landmark moment for the arboretum occurred in 1996 when the “Ryan’s Way” project began as an effort to beautify the main entrance to campus. During the first four years following its inception, the arboretum prospered, seeing the additions of 322 more trees of 34 different species.

11 years after its dedication, the Arboretum’s population of trees and shrubs has increased even more. Over 500 trees on main campus have been labeled for easy identification, with tiny blue nametags tacked onto each trunk.

Some of the most unusual trees at the University are:

The Cedar of Lebanon: A tree originally from the Middle East that can grow up to 40 to 50 feet tall. The needles are short (1/2 to 1 inch long) and grow in tufts along the branches. Cedar of Lebanons are used ornamentally and are often found growing near the foundations of old homesteads.

The Amur Cork Tree: This tree’s chief characteristics are corky bark and massive branches, with glossy foliage bearing black fruit. It grows up to 12 meters high.

The Pagoda Dogwood: This tree grows in woods, thickets and on rocky slopes where it forms a small tree clump, it has been cultivated since 1880 and grows naturally as a multi-stemmed shrub. It is commonly found as a single-stemmed tree about 25 feet high with a spread of about 20 feet. The leaves alternate and tend to grow toward the ends of the branches. The young stems are deep purplish-brown and the older stems and trunk are gray. Its fragrant blossoms open in early June.

The White Ash: This is a hardwood tree most commonly found in the eastern United States and Canada. These trees are between 20 and 120 feet tall, but are hampered by various insect and disease problems. They are better suited for parks and campuses rather than for the average home site. The sapwood is nearly white, while the heartwood ranges from grayish brown to light brown and even pale yellow in color.

The White Ash and other trees can be seen on the two one-mile trails which loop through main campus. To find them, visit Arboretum Villanova’s official website,

The Arboretum’s mission is to “provide for the continued beautification of the campus thereby enhancing the academic environment and establishing the arboretum as a source of pride within the community.” It also seeks to educate about the diversity, environmental benefits and aesthetic qualities of plant materials.

Once it’s warm enough to get rid of that ski mask, take an extra minute or two to notice the exquisite trees the University’s campus holds. It is a hidden treasure Villanovans are lucky enough to pass by every day.