A new grove of trees commemorating Virginia Tech’s Sesquicentennial on the Blacksburg campus can be found on the western edge of the Drillfield for future generations of Hokies to gather, reflect, and celebrate the university’s resiliency.

A collaborative effort among many university groups, including the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities; College of Natural Resources and Environment; College of Architecture, Arts, and Design; Communications and Marketing; Advancement; and more, the sesquicentennial grove will leave a lasting impact on Virginia Tech for the next 150 years and beyond. 

Reminiscent of the university’s sesquicentennial theme of honoring the past, celebrating the present, and looking forward to the future, the grove will offer a new setting for research, education, and recreation on the Blacksburg campus.

“Trees have been used throughout history to mark important places and events. They have served as early boundary lines and property borders, demarcated a particular year that an event happened through their growth rings, and become symbols of causes and celebrations,” said Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “Many of the trees around Cheatham Hall were planted to honor our graduating classes, the sycamore sapling planted across from the Lyric Theatre memorializes a very old sycamore used as a wayfinding marker, and the Merry Oak has long been treasured by enslaved people at Smithfield Plantation and their descendants.”

When the Sesquicentennial Planning Committee was looking for ideas to commemorate this historic anniversary, Winistorfer suggested planting a tree in honor of each academic college, an idea that germinated into the sesquicentennial grove. “I’m really excited and pleased that this grove of trees was planted to commemorate our anniversary. I look forward to seeing it grow, mature, and flourish in the decades to come — as has this great university,” said Winistorfer.

“The sesquicentennial grove is a perfect way to symbolize the celebration of our 150th anniversary. The trees will offer a lasting and visible legacy, changing and growing over time just like the university,” said Rosemary Blieszner, chair of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee and interim dean of the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design. “I am grateful for the contributions and guidance from colleagues in the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities in extending the sesquicentennial celebration to our beautiful campus.”

The grove includes several dozen trees from a variety of native species.

“These new trees represent our commitment to the future,” said Jamie King, university arborist. “They were selected carefully for their tolerance of the altered soils, heat, and pressure from human activity on urbanized sites. These species are also prepared for the climate we can expect in the near future. Many of these trees are native to areas south and east of Blacksburg, where temperatures are warmer and periods of rain and drought are more intense.” 

The sesquicentennial grove was planted in early December using thoughtful and sustainable planting practices to encourage healthy tree growth.

“Planting trees in the dormant season in this region is significantly less stressful on their roots than the rest of the year. The reduced risk of heat and drought during the winter also make this a beneficial time of the year for planting trees,” said King.

The sesquicentennial grove is just another example of the ways the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities is continuing to increase the tree canopy of the Blacksburg campus to help achieve goals set forth in the university’s Climate Action Commitment. 

“Urban forests are the front line of defense against the adverse effects of climate change, and these trees represent Virginia Tech’s dedication to our climate action commitment,” said King. “This grove presents an opportunity to improve human health and well-being, offset campus carbon emissions, and provide many other ecological benefits to our community - all while creating a beautiful space for Hokies to live, learn, work, and play for years to come.” 

In alignment with reforestation strategies set forth in the campus master plan, the sesquicentennial grove supports carbon sequestration, enhanced stormwater management, erosion control and water quality protection, increased species diversity, and reduced water consumption and energy expenditure for grounds maintenance.

Located at the symbolic heart of the Blacksburg campus, the sesquicentennial grove is an example of environmental stewardship that heightens public awareness of the relationship between human society and the natural environment. 

“The Drillfield serves as the university’s primary organizing landscape space and symbolic center of the Blacksburg campus,” said Jack Rosenberger, campus landscape architect. “The existing informal arrangement of ornamental and canopy trees around the perimeter of the Drillfield makes this a natural fit for the sesquicentennial grove. With this project, we are able to reinforce the existing character of the Drillfield and showcase support for the university’s Climate Action Commitment through the expansion of a diverse and resilient tree canopy which current and future Hokies and campus visitors can enjoy.”

The sesquicentennial grove is on the western edge of the Drillfield. Map by the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities.
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