Unexpectedly, I had a bit of a tree day today and it was a lovely day for it.
First, I have learned on good authority (from not one, but two reasonably reliable sources) that this is a pistachio tree:
Second, in attempting to confirm this I sought out Rice’s wonderful arborist, Neville Mann, and I came upon him in the very act of planting a new tree out by the RMC courtyard:
Actually, Neville (in the green shirt) dug the hole and some kids were filling it in. It turns out that today is a Jewish holiday, Tu b’Shevat, a sort of Arbor day type of thing also called “New Year for Trees,” and the Hillel students were helping out in celebration of the day. It’s a bur oak, like the other new trees in that area, and it’s really in quite a prominent spot.
As I looked through the files I’ve scanned over the years, I was moderately surprised to find that there is a tremendous amount of material in there about trees. It was a matter of great concern from the very beginning of the Institute, even before we settled on our current location. Here’s an 1892 receipt for rental of a horse and buggy used to take a trip to look for trees to plant on the original downtown site. (They chose elms, by the way):
Here’s a kid in a campus oak, circa 1917:
And here’s General Pershing with the pecan sapling he famously helped plant in front of the Administration Building in 1919 (note Tony Martino down in the hole):
Finally, here’s a 1923 memo to the Board from Mr. Cohn, Rice’s long serving Business Manager, about a major effort to plant new trees on campus. Stop and think about this for a minute. These decisions were really visionary and have had extraordinarily long lasting and beneficial consequences. These trees are one of our greatest glories.