Trees and Cacti and Sculptures, Oh My!

Posted by at 10:53PM

There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when… he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

From the foothills to the bay....

Stanford consists of 8180 acres.  That’s mildly ridiculous.  Let me put that into perspective: if you count just Disneyland Park itself, that’s roughly 96 Disneylands.  So Stanford waaay outranks Disneyland as the happiest place on earth!  Q.E.D., right?!  But seriously, folks: we students rarely encounter the vast majority of this immense, beautiful campus with which we have been blessed.  And I think a change would do us good.

Just like Twain’s rightly-constructed boy, I implore you, the rightly-constructed Stanford student, to explore the hidden treasure concealed before your very eyes in Stanford’s beautiful outdoors.  Channel your inner Tom Sawyer and ready your treasure map, because this post is all about ‘sploring the outdoor wonders that Stanford has to offer.

Bring me a shrubbery! Ahem, tree….

No, not that kind of Tree.

We have over 27,000 trees growing on central campus.  Whaaaat?  We have so many trees that we have an online encyclopedia of them, with precise bookkeeping identifying essentially every tree on central campus.  In case you’ve ever wondered, you can check out these freakishly thorough tree maps to plan your own adventure.  Rare, old, and historically important trees can be found here, and an assortment of special gardens and alluringly flowering courtyards can be found here.  In the springtime, check out the seasonal blooms along this route of hidden treasure.   In the fall, you can see Stanford’s best fiery autumn leaves by following these instructions.  There’s even a Stanford flora and fauna podcast!

Don’t consider yourself an arboreal connoisseur?  Well, have you ever gazed longingly at the tippy-top oranges on the trees by the Post Office and wondered where to find more?  Halt your awkward fruit-gazing and check this out: a listing of all edible fruit trees on campusKumquats, tangerines, and peaches are just a few of the tasty treats you’ll be able to find around campus.  For additional help, here’s an earlier TUSB post with a partial map.  Please be courteous and leave a fair share of fruit behind for your fellow scavengers!

Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve

The elusive checkerspot butterfly.

Jasper Ridge has been the site of scientific research since Stanford was opened in 1891, and to this day its researchers work “to contribute to the understanding of the Earth’s natural systems through research, education, and protection of the Preserve’s resources.”  There are approximately 60 projects going on at any given time, focusing on the four major areas of environmental and biotic change, structure of ecological communities, geology and geophysics, and direct human influences.  Current projects range from long-term studies of the checkerspot butterfly to testing of camera-trap mammal monitoring to earthquake prediction from electromagnetic anomalies.  Cool stuff!

Golden fields at Jasper.

If you’re interested in environmental study and preservation, you can even become a Jasper Ridge docent by taking Bio 105A/B.

But beyond the scientific functionality, Jasper Ridge is just plain gorgeous.  You can check it out for yourself by reserving a coveted spot on one of Jasper Ridge’s tours, and you can watch a great preview in this video.  The preserve has inspired a number of renowned artists, whose beautiful drawings and paintings you can see here and here.

Ooh!  Ahh!  Ouch!  Cacti on campus….

Even in the most severe of climes, Nature shows her tender beauty.

This has already been covered in excellent detail in Chris K’s summer article, but I thought I’d touch on it again, just in case you missed it: the cactus garden is pretty darn awesome.  The Arizona Garden, as it’s called, boasts approximately 500 cacti, and sorts its plants into two geographical regions: one each for the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.  Designed in the 1880s, it fell into disrepair, but since World War II, diligent botanists have been bringing new life to the fascinating secret garden.

Happy cactus flowers.

The garden can be found just paces away from the Mausoleum, and you don’t have to wait for springtime blooms – the cacti are breathtaking year-round.  It’s fun for a casual stroll on a sunny day or a nighttime ‘sploration whilst taking your ProFros on a midnight tour (just watch where you step!).  Speaking of water-efficient plants, you can also check out the Waterwise Demonstration Garden while you’re at it.  (Dune, anyone??)

And you thought you had chiseled abs: sculpture!

Splish, splash, I was takin' a bath....

It’s really easy to simply tune out the preponderance of cool sculptures we have on campus.  But when you think about it, have you ever seen somewhere more bedazzled, blinged-out, call-it-what-you-will with sculptures?  From the Claw to the funky silver tubes by the Bookstore to the eternally woebegone Burghers of Calais, Stanford’s cup truly runneth over when it comes to awesome sculptures.  This map provides a thorough listing of EVERY SCULPTURE EVER on Stanford campus.  Oh yeah, it’s not just impressive, it’s ALL CAPS IMPRESSIVE.

Ever wondered about the history of the Burghers? Click this image!

I would be a terrible tour guide if I didn’t immediately tell you that Stanford has the second largest collection of Rodin sculptures in the world, second only to the Rodin museum in Paris.  That’s approximately 170 works.  In case you didn’t know, this is way cool!  We have a Thinker, a Gates of Hell, and the mournful Burghers themselves, all a mere bike ride away from our dorms.  Talk about Stanford’s world-class dedication to the arts!

Groovy paintings and sculptures await you in the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden!

Many of the sculptures are in the outdoor sculpture garden, while the remainder grace the halls of our beautiful, free-admission Cantor Arts Center.  The Cantor docents lead marvelous regular tours of Stanford’s various sculpture collections, and I’d really encourage you to go for it.

The final stop in this particular treasure map is the intense Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden in the oak and cedar grove right in front of Roble.  These aren’t your typical sculptures, as they were constructed on-site by cultural artists from the Middle Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea.  For all of these artists, this was their first trip to the United States, and for many, it was their first trip outside of Papua New Guinea!  According to the project directors itself, “This collaboration was an interactive design process focused on expressing and reinterpreting New Guinea aesthetic values within the design of a western landscape space.”  Traipse through this garden and have an “experience that [will] rehumanize these arts and artists that have been consistently dehumanized by… stereotypes of the ‘primitive.'”

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