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#TBT: The Deep Roots Of Barnard’s Magnolia Tree

It's a jungle out there without Maggie to guide us (1944)

It’s a jungle out there without Maggie to guide us (1944)

Ever wonder just how far beneath Lehman Lawn our beloved Magnolia tree spreads its roots? Well, not so far anymore, as several expert botanists tried and tried again yesterday to safely sever her roots and transplant her a whopping thirty feet away. In celebration of this monumental change to Barnard’s landscaping, staff writer Mia Lindheimer takes a look back at the Magnolia tree’s role in Barnard’s history.

Back when The Diana Center was just a distant, futuristic, dream, the area from Lehman to Milbank was filled with assorted foliage and an athletic field. It was named, rather aptly, “The Jungle.”

Maggie appears in the Barnard archives! (circa 1970-1972)

Maggie appears in the Barnard archives! (circa 1970-1972)

No one knows precisely what day or even year Maggie first spread her roots, but apparently the first signs of her in the archives appear around the 1950s. And as soon as she appeared – as any Barnard student would agree – the magnolia completed Lehman Lawn, defining it as especially Barnard.

Maggie braving the terrors of construction (2009)

Maggie braving the terrors of construction (2009)

The first recorded hardship Maggie has faced in her many years at Barnard was in 2009. With plans for the construction of the Diana Center finally underway, both students and alumna were concerned for the magnolia’s well-being, especially after a beloved professor passed away:

“When I first heard that McIntosh was being redone, I was thrilled about the project but concerned that “Barbara’s tree” might be removed. When I visited last fall, I was relieved that it was still there and I could visit with her for a brief moment,” said Kellyx Nelson (Class of ‘92).

Pondering the meaning of life (or perhaps calculus) with Maggie standing guard (1985)

Pondering the meaning of life (or perhaps calculus) with Maggie standing guard (1985)

Professors also adore the magnolia, and reminisce fondly about spring days teaching a class on the lawn. The idea of sitting under a tree to study is a classic college student aesthetic, and the magnolia has made that image a reality in so many of our lives.

While there’s not much more to say about Maggie’s history, we can rest assured that she holds a special place in the hearts of everyone at Barnard. We even have Barnard perfume named Magnolia, as well as a magnolia apparel collection at the Barnard Store. Who could have imagined that we would all love a tree so much?

The many Maggies via the Barnard archives, Barnard store website, and Barnard Facebook page

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