The second-generation Trysting Tree at Oregon State University will be honored as a state Heritage Tree during a ceremony on Friday, April 6, at the tree near OSU’s Benton Hall.
The tree, a gray poplar which was planted in 1982 from cuttings of the original tree that dated to the 1880s, is one of four in Oregon that will be recognized during Oregon Arbor Week by the Oregon Travel Experience and the Oregon Heritage Tree Program.
The event announcing the new tree selections will begin at 2 p.m., with remarks by OSU President Ed Ray and several other speakers. A keynote address will be made by Larry Landis, OSU university archivist; a plaque will be unveiled; and the OSU chamber choir will perform. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
OSU’s Trysting Tree was a popular gathering spot on campus that dates back almost to the university’s origins as Oregon Agricultural College – it was the lover’s lane of its day, said to have a “magical effect” on students, especially in the springtime. The nickname evolved around 1900 when President Thomas Gatch admonished two students who were regularly meeting there for romantic purposes.
Apparently, the president’s scolding of the students did not have its intended effect. The tree’s popularity became such that illuminating lights were placed on Benton Hall “to keep the tree from being overworked,” and its legend grew.
A poem, published in 1908, refers to “a youth and maiden” standing “beneath the faithful Trysting Tree,” and concludes:
Long may’st thou live, thou worthy friend
Thou dear old Trysting Tree
Long may thy branches proudly wave
Majestic’ly and free
To mind us of those happy days
Spent at old OAC.
The original gray poplar had to be removed in 1987 due to advanced disease, but prior to that cuttings from it had been used to establish the replacement tree – now tall and healthy – that will be recognized in this ceremony. The tree is located in a National Historic District and is a widely recognized symbol of OSU – including a local golf course named after it and a lounge in OSU’s Memorial Union.
Other trees being recognized at the ceremony include a 250-year-old sugar pine that Oregon settlers passed on the southern Applegate Trail; a large pine tree in Josephine County that served as a base for smoke jumpers; and a grove of trees planted over a century on the Shipley Cook Farmstead in the Willamette Valley.