In Memoriam of the Swing Tree

Some of my favorite arbores in the arboretum 

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Our beloved Swing Tree on its side after the storm

The evening of July 22nd, Swarthmore lost 13 trees due to a powerful thunderstorm. One of those trees was Swarthmore’s iconic Swing Tree. Perhaps the tree was a class gift or dedicated to someone, I am not totally sure. Regardless, the Swing Tree was important to all of campus. I have seen countless students play on the swing or just sit and reflect, letting the wind and inertia move them. The Swing Tree will truly be missed.

When I was considering the different colleges I might attend I had a checklist of things I wanted and needed (i.e. a strong biology and economics department, several dining options, friendly people, etc.). One thing I knew I needed was an abundance of plants near me. The contradiction, however, was that I wanted to go to school in the city. Luckily, my college counselor helped find a compromise: Swarthmore College. The campus of Swarthmore College is the Scott Arboretum—arboretum meaning a space dedicated to trees—and has direct access to Center City Philadelphia via train. 

By attending Swarthmore, you are bound to pick up on some horticulture knowledge. Sue MacQueen, the Campus Engagement Coordinator, hosts plenty of workshops and plant giveaways. Three succulents have found a home with me. And when I walk to class there are some plant names I see everyday, such as clematis and trumpet honeysuckleWhile there are plenty of different plants on campus that each deserve admiration, I have a few favorites. 

Dawn Redwood

These trees line the path from Parrish Hall to the end of the Lang Performing Arts Center and Kohlberg Hall. I fell in love with these redwoods the first time I stepped foot on campus. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of these trees coated in snow, but my first time coming to Swarthmore College it was a cold, snow-laden day in February. The snow covering the branches made the campus look so picturesque. 

Metasequoia glyptostroboides


Swamp White Oak 

These trees line the sides of Magill Walk. They are probably the most popular trees on campus just because hundreds of students, visitors, staff members, and community members walk up and down Magill Walk passing by these old trees day after day. I admire these trees because as you walk down the path, you can see the trees at different life stages. Some of them are young and have yet to fully develop their breadth, but the older ones have bark that is covered in deep lines and patches of moss.


McGill Walk 2.jpg
Quercus bicolor


Yulan Magnolia

This tree sits right outside of Parrish Hall and along the path towards the Amphitheater. This tree is my favorite because it really expresses the changing seasons of the East Coast. In the spring, the branches are covered in big flower bulbs that gradually open up through spring. Then in the summer its white flowers fall to the ground and rich green leaves cover the small branches. In the fall the leaves change colors in preparation for the winter. Then, in the winter, the orangey leaves fall and the branches become bare. 

Under Yulan Magnolia
A view from underneath the Magnolia denudata

Chinese Magnolia

In April, Wharton Courtyard is one of the most popular spots because these magnolias bloom, producing poignant pink flowers. When the flowers fall at the end of spring, the ground is then littered with the pink bulbs. Additionally, the shade that these leaves provide during the summer is unmatched. The Scott Arboretum has more than 130 different kinds of magnolias, but this one is probably my favorite.

Wharton Magnolia
Magnolia xsoulangiana


The Chinese Magnolia in bloom. April 2019

Weeping Higan Cherry 

Last, but definitely not least, the Weeping Higan Cherry tree between the Intercultural Center and Wharton Hall is my absolute favorite. I passed by this tree everyday on my way to class and other activities. In the summer, the leaves sway with the breeze and the branches hang low with the weight of rain. In winter, the skinny branches are bare and appear lonely. But in early April, without anyone noticing, nearly a million small white flowers begin to bloom. 

Honorary mention: Trumpet Honeysuckle 

While the Trumpet Honeysuckle is not a tree, I do believe it deserves recognition. This plant is a vine that covers the south facing wall of Wharton Hall. It has to be trimmed every year for maintenance purposes. Nevertheless, the flowers on the vine are quite unique.

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