By Allison Bellucci, Contributing Writer
When the fall weather comes around and the leaves turn from green to vibrant orange and red, the University of New Hampshire campus is a beautiful sight to see. Although thousands of exquisite trees make up the classic New England foliage, there is one tree on campus that is very unique. Its species dating back 3000 years, the Ginkgo tree outside of James Hall is one of a kind.
Every year, the Ginkgo tree loses its leaves in one day. Within two to three hours, the fan-shaped leaves rain down until the tree is completely bare. It is said that if you catch a falling Ginkgo leaf, it will bring you luck. The UNH Department of Natural Resources and the Environment has been tracking the tree’s patterns since 1977.
Serita D. Frey, a professor of soil microbial ecology, has studied the patterns of the tree with her classes. “Our department [natural resources and the environment] has been tracking the day that the leaves fall each year since the mid-‘70s,” she said.
“Last year, I analyzed those data to see if that date has changed over time. It does look like the leaves are falling later on average, presumably due to the lengthening growing season due to climate change.”
Wendy Rose, administrative manager of the department, described the traditions the school has with the Ginkgo tree. “The leaves’ shapes are like a fan; they are really pretty,” said Rose, who has the Ginkgo tree leaf tattooed on her foot. “What happens traditionally is our department, natural resources and the environment, do a contest on which day the leaves will fall. So we do that every year.”
According to the Smithsonian Education website, “ the ginkgo has been a symbol of longevity (the tree can live for a thousand years) and of a more profound endurance (four ginkgos survived the blast at Hiroshima and are still growing today).”
In the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, four Ginkgo trees outside of a temple were the only living things to survive, and they are still there today.
UNH alumna Kathleen Leven ‘80 remembers the excitement of the tree from when she attended the university. “There was a kind of tree that turned yellow, and what was special about it was that when it would drop all of its leaves, it would drop them all in one day,” she said.
“People would go stand and watch it for a little bit of time, and over the course of a day it would drop all of its leaves. That was a really big thing in the fall.”
The Ginkgo tree has traditionally lost its leaves between late October and early November.
Keep an eye out for this natural marvel, and maybe you’ll even catch one of UNH’s lucky leaves.