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W.J. Beal Botanical Garden’s Spartan Tree Stories

13. The Mary Mayo Swamp White Oaks

Quercus bicolor

This old-growth swamp white oak, approximately 250-300 years old, grows near Mary Mayo Hall and was already thriving before the University was established in 1855. Mary Mayo Hall was built in 1931 as the first of the West Circle residence hall complex. The builder of this dormitory took great care to preserve this old oak and several nearby trees (CC1178*01, CC1179*02, CC1179*03) during the construction process so we can enjoy them today.

Prior to the construction of Mayo Hall, this area was a woodlot north of what was then known as Faculty Row, a row of faculty residences on the north side of West Circle Drive. In the fall of 1874, Professor Beal decided to start experimenting with growing trees. He collected acorns from these swamp white oaks and planted them in two rows, four feet apart just to the east of the surviving oak trees. Professor Beal continued to develop this area into what is today known as the Beal Arboretum, the birthplace of Michigan Forestry.

 - Dr. Frank W. Telewski
Retired, Director of W. J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum
Professor Emeritus, Department of Plant Biology

White oaks on the east side of Mary Mayo Hall, planted by William J. Beal (photo by University Communications)
Photo courtesy of University Communications.