Among the scenic locations on campus can be found more than 300 species and varieties of woody plants. This collection represents a living archive that also supports research and teaching by faculty and students from both within and outside of the College. By vote of the Board of Visitors, this collection is known as "The Baldwin Memorial Collection of Woody Species" after John T. (J.T.) Baldwin, Jr., professor of biology from 1946 to 1974.
The campus tour of woody species is self-guided and follows in the footsteps of the walking tour given for many years by Professor Baldwin. It begins and ends near the Wren Building on the Old Campus, following a loop that includes the 15 locations noted on the map and keyed to the left navigation menu.
The collection as it stands today is the result of dedicated contributions involving many people. Retired Biology Professor Martin Mathes for many years led the walking tours originated by his former colleague, Professor Baldwin. Biology faculty member Marha Case has expanded the original tour and continues to update the representation of plant specimens in it. The late Jane Henley was a leading advocate and private funder whose generous donations continue to maintain and extend the campus collection of woody plants. The College's Gardens and Grounds division of Facilities Management cares for specimens in the collection and for the campus landscape as a whole.
Origins of the Collection
John T. Baldwin, Jr. majored in biology at William & Mary and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 1937. He taught botany at the College from 1937 to 1939, returning as a full-time faculty member in 1947. In his research he specialized in cytogenetics (the study of plant chromosomes) and published widely throughout his career. He was instrumental in discovering natural sources of cortisone, in the plant Strophantus sarmentosus, and was considered a national authority on boxwood.
In his travels and studies Professor Baldwin visited four continents, often sending back to the College or returning with unusual seeds and plantings. Over several decades, with the assistance of his colleague Professor Bernice Speese, he gradually turned the campus into a natural laboratory dotted with dozens of exotic species. Some of these intiial plantings are among the oldest cultivated representatives of the species in the nation.
Before his death in 1974, Professor Baldwin charged his colleagues with responsibility for the collection. With much of the original documentation no longer available, Biology Professor Mathes launched in the late 1970s a project to identify, inventory and map the various species represented. He was assisted by senior student Louise Mozingo and a number of colleagues and funders, and the effort resulted in production of a bound catalog identifying an dmapping the locations of approximately 325 species and varieties of woody plants. A second publication chronicles the history of vegetation on the campus. Both are available in Swem Library, although the representation of plants on campus has changed considerably since 1992.
Ongoing efforts by Dr. Martha Case in conjunction with Facilities Management seek to maintain and expand the tour as we begin a century that has inspired a deeper understanding of the value of a verdant heritage.
- Martin C. Mathes, The Planting of a Campus Tradition, 1987
- Martin C. Mathes, Collection of Woody Species, 1992