Contributed by Anthony Aiello, The Gayle E. Maloney Director of Horticulture and Curator

Last week it was sad to watch as two venerable pines were removed from near Gates Hall – our native white pine (Pinus strobus #1936-7382*A) and an Austrian pine (Pinus nigra var. nigra #1948-8556*A).  I am always sorry to see mature trees removed and miss their presence in the landscape.  In the case of these two pines, not only were they handsome specimens that I enjoyed when walking to and from my office every day, but they both have interesting links to the Arboretum’s history.  

White pine is one of our native pine species, and reaches majestic proportions in the wild and in landscapes.  Strongly pyramidal when young, with age they become more open and their branching takes on a great deal of character.  This particular white pine was received by the Arboretum as an eight-to-nine foot tall tree in November of 1936 from Maurice Bower Saul, Lydia Morris’s attorney who helped establish the arrangement between Lydia and the University of Pennsylvania.  At the time, it was planted close to what was the Arboretum’s property line, with the neighboring estate Overlea (what we now call Gates Hall).  This was long before the current entrance drive and parking lots, and this area would become one of the main conifer collections at the Arboretum, the remnants of which still surround our parking lots. 

Among his many accomplishments, Maurice Saul was a Trustee at Penn, founding member of the law firm Ewing, Remick & Saul, Lydia Morris’s attorney, and long-time counsel of the Arboretum (for more information see Untold Stories of Comption: The Attorney).  It was with his assistance that Lydia navigated a path to have the Arboretum become part of the University of Pennsylvania.

This pine was paired with a large specimen of bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa #1932-1169*A) planted in September 1926 by the National Association of Gardeners, “in commemoration of their visit to Compton, in appreciation of John and Lydia Morris’s role in advancing the art of horticulture and gardening in America”.  So, for the past 80-plus years, these two trees, marked an enduring representation of the relationship between Lydia Morris and Maurice Saul.

Austrian pine is a picturesque tree, with a wide-spreading crown and striking white bark.  Austrian pines are very susceptible to needle cast diseases; due to our hot and humid summers, this tree had been increasingly affected the past few years, and there was very little life left in it.  This particular tree was part of the Overlea (Gates Hall) landscape and was here in 1948 when Penn purchased this property.  At that time, the Arboretum and University administration intended to renovate the Morrises’ mansion, Compton, and purchased the neighboring property to relocate the research, educational, and administrative functions of the Arboretum (see Biodiversity Heritage Library).  In addition to the Austrian pine, there are a number of trees that were part of that property, including the large plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia), copper beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Atropunicea'), red oak (Quercus rubra) and Golden English oak (Quercus robur 'Concordia').  Because 1948 was the year that this property became part of the Arboretum, all of these trees all have 1948 accession numbers, marking the year that they were officially recorded.  It is likely that these were planted at or around the time that Overlea was built in 1893. 

All of the plants at the Arboretum have stories to tell.  Some of these stories are more involved than others, and in the case of these two pines, they provide links to characters and places in our history.