Spring Plant Walks

Spring is a time when getting outdoors takes on new importance. The rains and cold of winter are diminishing and we look forward to warmer days to come. This is a good time to get out and take a walk on the Stanford campus. The courtyards of the Quad and a loop walk along West Campus Drive are two areas where the promise of spring blooms beckon.


Walk #1: The Courtyards of the Quad

See a map of this walk.

This is a walk to be enjoyed more than once. Visit the three courtyards selected to see the show of blossoms as they open over time.

Starting at the entrance to Memorial Court on Serra Mall the red of the Americana 'dark red' geraniums is a bold contrast to the ebony bronze of the Burghers of Calais sculptures by Rodin.

Turn to the left to walk through the Avocado Courtyard and on to the Citrus Courtyard. Here in the Citrus Courtyard amongst the oranges, kumquats, calomondins, Mandarins and limes you will find the Prunus yedoensis, flowering cherry, at the entrance from the Lasuen Mall side. To your right you will see Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan', at the entrance to the inner quad. This variety has large double deep rosy pink pendant flowers. The blossoms of these trees usually bloom in early to mid-April. Take time to smell the delicate fragrance of the cherry blossoms.

Continue into the inner quad and walk along the east side of the buildings to reach the Oregon Courtyard on the southeast side. In this courtyard the flowering cherries are Prunus serrulata 'Amanogawa' and 'Mt Fuji'. They add upright architectural interest to the landscape within the courtyard. This is a courtyard for sitting and contemplating. The blossoms are usually at their best in late March. Enjoy the soft white of the blooms.

When you are ready continue west to visit the Thomas Church Courtyard where the Chionanthus retusus, Chinese fringe trees, with their pure white blossoms create a spectacular canopy in early April to mid-April. The arches of the Quad arcade are a perfect backdrop for this Spring show.

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Walk #2: A Loop Walk along West Campus Drive

See a map of this walk.

This is a loop walk of approximately 5/8ths of a mile. It is best taken in spring when the wildflowers along West Campus Drive have begun to flower. This walk will take you past the planting and then south along Lomita Drive to the west ear of the oval. The east and west ears of the oval are also seeded with wildflowers each year, from Serra Street to the points of the panels at either side of Palm Drive. In past years the flowers have been at their peak in mid May.

The preparation for planting wildflowers begins in early fall when the Grounds Department places an order for California native wildflower seed. The wildflower mix includes twenty-one different flower varieties. Included in the mix are the following favorites: Indian paintbrush, dwarf godetia, clarkia, California poppy, globe gilia, birds eyes, yellow lupine, blazing star, five spot and baby blue eyes. The seed is spread in mid-December to mid-January at a number of sites on campus. The center median of Campus Drive from Lasuen Street to Lomita Drive is one of the sites seeded.

Begin your walk at the corner of Lasuen Street and Campus Drive East, walking west towards Palm Drive. You will pass the arboretum where many Eucalyptus globulus, blue gum, grow. The large trees in the median of Campus drive are Calocedrus decurrens, incense cedars. It is in this median as well as the four corners of the meadows at Palm Drive that the wildflowers grow.

Cross Palm Drive and continue to Lomita Drive. Cross Campus Drive to walk south on Lomita. As you walk south past the Cantor Museum notice the Casuarina stricta, she-oak, on the east side of Lomita. When you reach the Old Chemistry building look to your left and take the footpath through the west oval ear.

As you walk, stop to look at the individual flowers that make up the wildflower mix. See if you recognize some favorites. Cross over to the east oval ear and take the footpath. Pause to enjoy the beauty of the grove of oaks in the area with the understory of wildflowers. Continue north towards Littlefield Center and go through the arch. On the north side of Littlefield note the Aesculus x carnea, red horsechestnut tree with its spectacular blooms.

To the west, notice the Pinus pinea, Italian stone pines, near Museum Way and Lasuen. As this tree matures it develops a signature flat top. This is one pine found at a number of sites on campus. Continue down Lasuen Street to complete the walk where you started at Campus Drive. Winter rain and warm temperatures affect the bloom of all flowering trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Since this is a pleasurable walk it is recommended you take it more than once to see the flowers as they begin, open, flourish and fade.

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