Willamette University Tree Proves to be the Tallest

A tree guy has measured them and it's official. Among Willamette University's five Sequoiadendron Giganteums, known more simply by those who admire them as "the Star Trees," is the tallest Sequoia tree on any college or university campus in the United States.

Another Oregon university laid claim to the title years ago, but recently Willamette University called in a big stick to set the record straight. The University asked forestry consultant Terry Lamers to officially measure the tallest of the five Star Trees and settle the question once and for all. The measurement showed Willamette's tallest Sequoia to be 154 feet tall. That's roughly a little more than 15 stories high. It beat the closest competitor limbs down. Pretty good growth for a class gift.

It all began when the students of the Class of 1942 presented Willamette with five tiny redwood trees as a farewell gift. The occasion coincided with the 100th anniversary of Willamette, founded in 1842 and recognized as the oldest university in the west.

The five tiny trees on the north side of Waller Hall, located directly across the street from the State Capitol, were planted in a "circle of fire." Their growth was so symmetrical and well-spaced, that years later, visitors who stand in the center of the trees and look skyward see the form of a perfectly shaped five-pointed star. Their growth has been phenomenal and so has the attention they draw around the holiday season.

In 1997, Willamette University started a campus holiday tradition that now draws close to 1,000 visitors to campus annually. The Star Trees Lighting each December is sponsored by the University and Salem-area businesses. The five Star Trees are layered with 50 strands that hold 1,700 lights that remain lighted from mid-December to January 2. The lighting ceremony also features several choirs and music ensembles from Willamette University.

The Star Trees of Willamette were planted 60 years ago to make a statement about longevity and purpose. That declaration of determination is now 154 feet tall.