Students, faculty and staff, members of the Charlottesville community and visitors from far and wide wander through the University of Virginia’s Grounds snapping photos and lounging in the shade of enormous trees every day.

As some of UVA’s oldest living things, do you ever wonder how much history these trees have experienced in their tenure? From presidents to war, these trees have seen it all – and they are getting some recognition.

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The University was recently awarded the Tree Campus USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation. UVA is one of seven higher-ed instutitions in the state of Virginia to be granted this designation on the basis of a satisfactory tree advisory committee, tree-care plan, student service-learning project, Arbor Day observance and an adequate fund for tree care.

The designation – and the long lives of the more than 10,000 trees on Grounds – is largely thanks to the hard work of the Facilities Management teams that care for UVA’s flora and fauna year-round. Kevin Beal, certified arborist and Facilities Management Landscape Services senior supervisor, has been looking after Grounds for the past 13 years, after many years in private tree care.

Kevin Beal  stands under a tree for a picture

Passionate about trees since he was a teenager, Beal continually works to educate the public about the importance of respecting the trees and landscape of the University. It’s a daily struggle to maintain the health of many of the trees and plants on Grounds due to construction work near or on top of root zones, he said.

When he’s not keeping the University’s environment in pristine condition, Beal dedicates his time to raising alpaca on his farm in southern Albemarle County. He is also a member of the Urban Forest Council, or Trees Virginia, which helps host public seminars and work days to care for the local environment through clean-up and maintenance.

Here’s a closer look at six trees that fascinate him on Grounds, each with deep roots in the history of the University.

Pratt Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba

Pratt Ginkgo near the Rotunda

Location: West side of the Rotunda
Named for William Abbott Pratt, who was the first superintendent of buildings and grounds from 1853 to 1865, this tree was planted around 1860. The Ginkgo is well-known for its golden leaves that suddenly drop in the autumn, creating a carpet of yellow. Located right next to the Rotunda, the Pratt Ginkgo survived the fire of 1895 in its younger years and is still healthy enough to live on for a thousand years more, Beal said.

Dawn Redwood

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Dawn Redwood standing tall above UVA buildings

Location: The triangle at McCormick Road and University Avenue

This tree was planted in 1972 in honor of Ladley Husted, who was the first chairman of the President’s Tree Commission, which was later known as the Arboretum and Landscape Committee. This tree is surrounded by asphalt, as well as heavy vehicle and foot traffic that threaten its roots, but it continues to flourish thanks to care and attention from Beal’s team.

Bald Cypress

Taxodium distichum

Bald Cypress  near the Chapel

Location: Along University Avenue across from Carrs Hill

These three trees were planted in a grove by Dr. William A. Lambeth, landscape superintendent from 1905-1928. It is thought that Lambeth brought the trees back from a canoe trip in the swamps of North Carolina. Lambeth is also the namesake for Lambeth Colonnades.

Veitch Fir

Abies veitchii


Veitch Fir surrounded by other trees

Location: Behind the University Chapel

This tree dates back to the Civil War era. It has suffered some damage – the top likely lost to a long-ago storm – but is still in great health. It is a “zone four” tree, usually planted in the north of the U.S. in a much colder climate; however, it is thriving in Charlottesville’s warmer, zone seven, climate.

Yulan Magnolia

 Magnolia denudata

Very round Yulan Magnolia tree

Location: In front of the Rotunda

Estimated to be around 100 years old, this highly photographed magnolia is known for its interesting branch collars. Part of its name, denudata, means “bare” or “naked,” and calls attention to how the flowers bloom before the leaves emerge. This tree often graces Instagram and holiday cards for generations of Hoos, or serves as a playground for children because of its unique structure.

Alderman Oak/ Pin Oak

Quercus palustris

Alderman Oak/ Pin Oak

Location: Carr’s Hill

This tree was planted in honor of Edwin A. Alderman, who served as the first president of the University in 1904 and held the position for 27 years. Alderman Library and the nearby Alderman Road are also named after him. The tree sits at the intersection of Rugby Road and University Avenue and has welcomed numerous UVA presidents to the Carr’s Hill home.