Memorial & Honorial Trees

Memorial Tree Option 

If a donor chooses to have a new memorial tree planted, rather than adopting an existing tree, a formal request must be made to the Botanic Garden. The Botanic Garden will inform the potential donor whether or not there is a memorial tree available, that is, whether the Botanic Garden has the intent to add a tree to the landscape that could be designated as a memorial tree within the desired time frame.

The Botanic Garden will choose the type of tree and the location of the planting site since these decisions must be made in accordance with the Landscape Master Plan. However, if multiple trees are available, the donor may choose from the list provided. The minimum donation for the planting of a memorial tree is $5,000. This covers the cost of the tree, the standard plaque, the planting fee, and maintenance costs. The tree will be maintained by the Botanic Garden until it dies, becomes a hazard, or must be removed for a building project.

The Botanic Garden will not replace any memorial trees unless they die within a year of planting. When a memorial tree eventually dies or needs to be removed, the donor will be notified and will have the option to memorialize another tree under the previously listed conditions (another request and donation is required). Replacement requests are the top priority and will be done before any new donors are accepted.

Adopt a Tree Option 

To adopt an existing tree and have a memorial plaque attached to the tree, the donor must request a list of available trees, which includes the level of donation ($5000 minimum) necessary for each tree. An ad hoc committee has evaluated the relative worth of the trees on campus and attached to each an appropriate donation level. The more historic, regal, significant and long-lived the tree, the higher the level of donation required. Insurance estimates for the older giants on campus indicate the value to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Since the cost of maintaining a tree in good health throughout the life of the tree is largely dependent on the longevity of the species and its predisposition to limb damage and disease, the donation level is highly variable.

Donor plaques will remain on the tree until the tree dies or is removed because it has become a hazard. In some cases this could be as little as 5 to 10 years and in others, for example a long-lived ginkgo, it could be over 200 years. If a tree is removed for construction purposes, e.g. new building additions, relocation of sewer lines, the donor will be informed and the care can be transferred to a comparable tree, providing one exists.

Quercus shumardii, Shumard Oak on Chapin Lawn.

Even now, after more than 50 years, I can recall my younger self walking along the grand allée of oak trees in front of Neilsen Library — measuring the rhythm of their trunks and looking up into their branches. I believe I became a landscape architect because of those trees.


Susan Cohen, Smith Class of 1962