Flora and fauna of campus

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Spring quarter at Stanford brings with it all sorts of sights and sounds that let all the undergrads know that it’s officially darty season: beer pong tables and fountain hoppers in Terman; reggaeton and hip-hop and indie rock with sunbathers on Arguello Field; warm weather (I write this as it nears 100° F outside); the European wild oats covering the hills by the Dish desiccating to reach their summer golden-brown color; the smell of wildfire smoke drifting over from somewhere in the Bay Area.

That’s what a normal spring quarter feels like, anyway.

As we social distance and trudge through “cumulative midterms” from across the globe, and as we spend so much time in the same small living spaces, it’s hard to remember what a normal spring quarter feels like. Even with my privilege of being able to comfortably shelter in place with my family, I miss the exuberance of spring on campus, and I know that feeling is shared by many.

I’ve responded to that feeling in a number of ways. One is by building Stanford in Minecraft (which, shameless plug, you should definitely help with), and another is the dubiously helpful practice of scrolling through photos from last spring. But last week I decided to get a more real sense of campus by biking to Stanford to do what I do best: gawk at the plants.

The fountains may be empty and the campus oddly quiet, but the flora and fauna are happy to shelter in place. Cacti are blooming, squirrels scramble everywhere and the palm trees catch the evening light in the unusually clean air. I’m skeptical of the “earth is healing” narrative, as the pandemic only shows us an inherently unsustainable way to reduce human impact on the planet, but the trees do look especially beautiful this year. Or maybe I’ve spent too long building crude, pixelated approximations of trees in Minecraft. That might explain it better.

Regardless, campus was beautiful. Some favorite plants of mine were showing their full spring glory: the passion flower on the Law School dumpster, the white catalpa trees on the Row and the many botanical oddities in Main Quad and the Arizona Cactus Garden. I found surprises, too: Angell Field (in the middle of the track) was overgrown with blooming white clover, some strange cycads and monkey puzzle trees were producing cones and I didn’t see a single caterpillar. Maybe the Western tussock moths are staying at home too—or, more likely, Building and Grounds Maintenance’s persistent efforts to reduce their populations have been successful.

I might not be able to give you the joy of a caterpillar-free spring on campus, but I can give you these small snapshots of what it might look like. With hope, these photos might help you find a little bit of beauty and sense of familiarity in these—as they say—unprecedented times.

To learn more about the flora and fauna on and around campus, check out Trees of Stanford and Birds of Stanford.

Contact Michael Byun at mbyun ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Oenothera speciosa
Oenothera speciosa (evening primrose) blooms by an unused Zipcar in Wilbur Lot at Escondido and Campus.(Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Iris douglasiana
A cultivar of Iris douglasiana (Douglas iris), a native wildflower, near the Rinconada Lounge. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Bougainvillea spectabilis
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis) at the Tweast main entrance with profuse bracts colored magenta by betalain pigments. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Schefflera actinophylla
Schefflera actinophylla 'Amate' (umbrella tree) in Tweast, with red snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) in the window reflection. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Sciurus carolinensis
An eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), a species introduced from the East Coast, eating flowers of Acca sellowiana (feijoa/pineapple guava) in front of Stern. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Eriobotrya japonica
Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) fruiting between Donner and Larkin. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus sp. leaves catch afternoon sun in the Donner/Ride courtyard. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Liriodendron tulipifera
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) blooming by the Law School. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Callistemmon
An unidentified bumblebee (Bombus sp.) collecting pollen from Callistemmon 'Little John' in Meyer Green. Hummingbirds and European honeybees were also flocking to the flowers. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Hummingbird
An unidentified hummingbird alights on a eucalyptus branch. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Squirrel
A squirrel scavenges trash near Meyer Green. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Erythrina coralloides 'Bicolor' (naked coral tree), native to eastern Mexico, blooming between the post office and Braun. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Passiflora edulis
The South American Passiflora edulis (passionfruit, maracuyá, liliko‘i) blooming by the Law School dumpsters. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Cycas revoluta
A female Cycas revoluta (sago cycad) bearing lots of reproductive structures: hairy megasporophylls with mature orange-pink ovules. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Catalpa
The catalpa (Catalpa sp.) in front of Casa Italiana, the first on the Row to flower each year, in full bloom. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Catalpa blooms
The catalpa (Catalpa sp.) in front of Casa Italiana, the first on the Row to flower each year, in full bloom. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Eriobotrya japonica seeds
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) seeds and discarded fruit littering a Geology Corner sidewalk—evidence of an animal eating the fruit. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Melanerpes formicivorus
Acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) using a California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) in the Inner Quad as a "granary tree" to store acorns in holes they drill, visible all over the trunk. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Magnolia hodgsonii
The large pink buds of Magnolia hodgsonii, native to the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, swell in the Inner Quad. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Persea americana
New growth on an avocado tree (Persea americana) displays vivid colors in the History Corner. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Syagrus romanzoffiana
The South American queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) bearing an inflorescence of small yellow flowers and large infructescences of unripe green dates in the History Corner. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Citrus medica
An immature fruit on a Buddha's hand tree (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis), known for its fragrance, is one of the few not taken by passers-by this season. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
African cycad
A male African cycad species in Nolop Courtyard bears two cones. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Aesculus californica
The California buckeye (Aesculus californica) in front of the Anderson Collection catches evening sunlight in its flowers. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Opuntia
An Opuntia species (prickly pear) blooms amidst Agaves and a Beaucarnea (ponytail palm) in the Arizona Cactus Garden. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Agave victoriae-reginae
Opuntia species (prickly pear) bloom beside a Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae) in the Arizona Cactus Garden. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Agave parryi
A structure known as a mast or quiote, soon to bear flowers, grows several feet up from the center of an Agave parryi var. truncata in the Arizona Cactus Garden. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Cactus buds
Flower buds grow on a cactus species in the Arizona Cactus Garden. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Echinocactus grusonii
Rotund old golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) catch evening sunlight in the Arizona Cactus Garden. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Agave vilmoriniana
Tubular yellow flowers line the inflorescence of an octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana): spent flowers on the bottom, open flowers in the middle, and unopened buds on top. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Araucaria araucana
A female monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana), native to South America, bears cones by the Mausoleum. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)
Trifolium repens
At Cobb Track and Angell Field, the grass has been allowed to grow out and white clover (Trifolium repens) allowed to bloom. (Photo: MICHAEL BYUN / The Stanford Daily)

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