Into The Trees: Corvallis Heritage

Jefferson St. London Planes

The natural beauty of this town never ceases to amaze me, especially in spring and summer. The wonder of our urban forestry certainly isn’t lost on our Parks and Recreation team, who’ve officially recognized some of our particularly special trees with Heritage Tree status. A panel of nine meets once a year to consider trees that have been nominated by the community for this esteem. 

Some of the criteria evaluated includes historical significance, landmark value, and outright magnificence. Parks and Rec have created a virtual tour of these trees on their website, so I set out to have a look and fearlessly report. It’s just too bad that I’ve already used a variation of the word “magnificent” in the intro;, here I come.

Jefferson Ave
London Plane Trees
These interesting trees line Jefferson Ave from approximately 5th-9th Streets. This grove is actually a mixture of London plane and old-world sycamore, both belonging to the genus Platinus. These trees were planted in 1910 under the direction of professors C.I. Lewis and John A. Bexel. To me, the most striking characteristic of the Jefferson Ave trees is their trunks. Many have this bulbous, fairy tale quality about them; I half expected a face to emerge and send me on some kind of mythical quest.

J.C. Avery Walnut
This tree is located at Philomath Blvd. and SW 4th St. In 1876, Joseph Avery, the founder of Corvallis, planted this tree a short time before his death. I can’t look at any of this Avery stuff without considering his ownership of the racist, pro-slavery newspaper, The Occidental Messenger. This stunning walnut tree is a sobering reminder of how one can at times like trees so much more than people.

Avery Park Walnut
Yet another walnut tree believed to have been planted by Avery, this one resides near the locomotive in Avery Park. It was planted in 1876, and it’s quite distinguished. While viewing it, images of old-timey folks smashing walnuts with mallets, picking out the tiny nut pieces, and accidentally cracking their teeth on little bits of shell made my mouth hurt. Nobody wants to visit the old-fashioned dentist.

Black Cottonwood at
Crystal Lake Park
Black cottonwoods can get pretty big, but this one is an absolute behemoth. This 135-foot tree is the second biggest black cottonwood in the U.S. Like many heritage trees, this one is also an important part of local history. Joseph Avery used it as a witness tree for the land claim that would become Corvallis. I’m not quite sure how that works, or how they got the tree to sign the paperwork, but it’s still pretty neat.

Camperdown Elm at
Buxton Corrie House

This tree’s foliage spills over the fence and onto the sidewalk, creating a small tunnel that children or very small adults can walk through. Camperdown elms almost resemble a miniature version of the Womping Willow from Harry Potter, but this particular tree has a very friendly disposition and made no attempt to murder me. Go have a look for yourself at SW 8th and Jefferson.

OSU Metasequoia
The Metasequoia is commonly known as the dawn redwood, this one is located near Benton Hall on campus. The dawn redwood is interesting in that it is both deciduous and coniferous. These trees were thought to be extinct until found in China in 1946, and this tree is believed to have been one of the first planted in the U.S. They’re now a popular neighborhood tree around these parts; if you ever look down to see a pile of almost perfectly cylindrical cones, there’s probably one nearby. This specimen is decidedly more impressive than other ones I’ve seen. Its buttressed trunk — a feature it shares with the related coast redwood and giant sequoia — is much more pronounced than in its younger siblings. The dawn redwood is among my favorite trees, and this one is truly wondrous to behold.

OSU Oregon White Oak
This monster oak is growing right next to the OSU Veterinary Hospital, and is actually in the fenced area the hospital uses for large animal intake. This tree is so dazzling and enormous, you don’t have to be right underneath it to appreciate its stoic beauty. It is estimated to be 345 years old, here centuries before the college existed.

OSU Moon Tree
Well hello again, Moon Tree. I actually wrote a more extensive piece on this incredible Douglas-fir quite recently, and it seems that fate keeps bringing us together. The short of it is this: Apollo 14 command module pilot Stuart Roosa took a bunch of tree seeds to the moon and back, and the seeds were subsequently germinated as an experiment to analyze the effects of space travel on seed germination. Almost all of the seeds were germinated, and were then planted at various locations throughout the U.S. and the world; this one is ours. I guess if you’re an evergreen, and you want to be a Corvallis Heritage Tree, you must first travel 238,900 miles into the vast blackness of space and back. Good luck.

Harrison Blvd
London Plane Trees
Now, I know you’ve noticed these beauties before. Like Jefferson, Harrison has its own London planetrees lining the street, but these ones are much more noticeable from inside the car. After 30th Street, right near the College Hill Bad Kids School, these trees form a glorious and whimsical bright green tunnel that you can drive through. They’re pretty great from the sidewalk too. The trees are closer together than on Jefferson, so they form a fantastic canopy, a rare sight in semi-urban areas such as ours.

Peavy Arboretum

Like the OSU Metasequoia, this was another of the first dawn redwoods planted in the U.S. This one is a little further out than many of the trees that you’ll find on this list, but if appreciating rad trees is your thing, a trip to Peavy Arboretum will not disappoint. There’s a great many non-native trees growing here, and they’re labelled with their common and scientific names. This place is known as the gateway to the McDonald-Dunn Forest, and there are trails upon trails to explore in this area.

Beazell Memorial Forest Oak
This gorgeous, 250 year-old, Oregon white oak grows near the old Plunket family barn — now the Beazell Forest Education Center. This one is even further out than Peavy Arboretum, but the Beazell Forest demands exploration. This magnificent, (I’ve exhausted my synonyms) tree will greet you as you head toward the Beazell trails.

Now that you’ve observed all of Parks and Rec’s officially recognized trees, it’s time for you to blaze a trail into town and christen some as awesome for yourself. By christen, I don’t mean pee on, don’t do that. I’m more thinking you should contemplate how great the tree is, and maybe give it a name. For example, I’ve named this lodgepole pine behind my apartment Oliver, and I go back there and say hello frequently. And if you run out of unique trees in Corvallis, head on over to Lebanon, after all they were presented with the Tree City USA award by the Arbor Day Foundation on April 5 for the 10th year in a row. Go forth and be arborous.

Take the Heritage Trees Virtual Tour here:

By Jay Sharpe