Deanna Csomo McCool | January 15, 2018
After trekking through the biting South Bend cold on Nov. 26, 1842, Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., first laid eyes on the 524 acres bequeathed to the Congregation of Holy Cross to build a Catholic university, admired its two lakes and surrounding forest, and started planning his ideal landscape.
He may have encountered a young sycamore tree that grows behind what is now Corby Hall. Currently one of the largest trees the University of Notre Dame’s campus, it is 80 feet tall and has thick, finger-like limbs that curl toward heaven in apparent angst. And certainly Father Sorin appreciated the ash trees, oaks, hickories and maples that surrounded St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s lakes. But taming this “savage wilderness,” as one newspaper account in 1844 described the property, was necessary in order to create the pedestrian-friendly, academic utopia Father Sorin envisioned.
The flora on campus remains integral to it beauty. About every 25 years since 1966, botanists have completed campus surveys to record the variety and location of all trees, vines and shrubs, collectively known as woody plants. As the 175th anniversary of the University’s founding approached, several department leaders recognized the need to not only complete another survey, but also to expand it into a campuswide database that includes information on the condition of each planting, as well as the location of memorial tree plaques.
A gift by Tom and Lucy Korth, earmarked for campus beautification, made the project possible.