Top 5 Trees to See on Urbana-Champaign Campus

If you’re a tree person, the University of Illinois is a great place to be! Illinois has been a registered Tree Campus USA since 2015. We’re also home to the largest Yellowwood in the state, which you can find just north of Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall.

In April, the Horticulture Club hosted a Tree Walk as part of Earth Month and the University of Illinois’s Arbor Day Celebration. Now the Horticulture Club is hosting the same Tree Walk as a part of Fall ’19 Sustainability Week. Get out there and enjoy the beautiful trees that campus has to offer!

Here is iSEE’s top 5 list of must-see trees:


1. American sycamore

Botanical name: Platanus occidentalis
Location: Near Gregory Hall
Trunk diameter at breast height: 54
Native? Yes
These trees produce unusual spiny seed balls that remain on the tree throughout the winter. When sycamore trees reach maturity, their bark becomes distinctively smooth and white. Many people believe this sycamore is the oldest tree on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

2. Bur oak

Botanical name: Quercus macrocarpa
Location: North of Natural History Building
Trunk diameter at breast height: 51
Native? Yes
The bur oak (sometimes called burr oak) is named for the unusual, fringed overcup that covers the acorns. See if you can find one on the ground! The deeply ridged bark is thick, which helps protect this tree from prairie fires in the native Illinois savanna ecosystem. This species even played a part in American history: The famous “Council Oak,” under which Lewis and Clark negotiated with Native Americans during their expedition into the Louisiana Territory, belongs to this species.

3. Bald cypress

Botanical name: Taxodium distichum
Location: North of Harker Hall
Trunk diameter at breast height: 48
Native? Yes
Although the bald cypress has needle-like leaves and seed-bearing cones, it is not an evergreen like most other conifers. In the fall, the needles turn orange or red and drop to the ground before winter. This tree is one of the longest living organisms: The oldest known specimen is more than 1,620 years old, in Bladen County, N.C.

4. Ginkgo

Botanical name: Ginkgo biloba
Location: Front entrance of Noyes Laboratory
Trunk diameter at breast height: 44
Native? No
Ginkgo biloba is the last remaining species in the genus Ginkgophyta, which appeared in the fossil record more than 270 million years ago. For many years, the ginkgo tree was thought to be extinct, too. However, a single remaining tree was discovered at a Buddhist monastery — from which the entire species was revived. Today, ginkgo are commonly grown throughout the world.

5. Saucer magnolia

Botanical name: Magnolia x soulangeana
Location: Davenport Hall courtyard
Trunk diameter at breast height: 20
Native? No
This magnolia (pictured on the right) has large, furry buds that open in early spring to display beautiful blooms in white and pink that can grow up to 10 inches across. The branches make excellent nesting sites for wild birds and squirrels. Magnolia originated in Asia and in the southeastern United States but are currently grown around the world because of their beautiful flowers.

Download this map and take a tour of significant and historical trees on the University’s campus.

— Article and photos by Chloe Rice, iSEE Communications Intern