Old Willow tree succumbs to windstorm on Old Main lawn

March 26, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One of Penn State's most iconic and tradition-rich trees — known as the Old Willow — came down on the University Park campus on Friday, March 26, due to strong winds throughout central Pennsylvania. The tree was a third-generation descendent of the original Old Willow, which was planted in 1859 by Professor William Waring and believed to have been brought to campus by the University’s first president, Evan Pugh, as a willow off-shoot he returned with after a six-year trip in Europe.

“The loss of the Old Willow is a tremendous loss for campus that is tied to a long tradition,” said Bill Sitzabee, Penn State’s vice president of facilities management and planning and chief facilities officer.

Old Willow 3 27 2021

The iconic weeping willow that fell during the windstorm on Friday, March 26, was the third-generation descendant of the original Old Willow that was planted by Professor William Waring in 1859.

IMAGE: Patrick Mansell

Unknown in its origin, generations of Penn State freshmen have bowed and tipped their caps to Old Willow. 

The first Old Willow fell in a windstorm on Aug. 21, 1923. Fortunately, the University had taken cuttings in 1914 to carry on its genetic legacy. The second-generation Old Willow grew through the late 1970s. Since then, the third-generation Old Willow has graced the Old Main lawn.

Penn State arborists and landscape construction crews were on the scene shortly after the tree fell, taking extra precautions to ensure survivability of cuttings. The cuttings for a fourth-generation Old Willow will be grown and tended to by the Office of Physical Plant at the University’s tree nursery. After a suitable off-shoot reaches mature height, the next Old Willow will be planted on campus, with input from the University Tree Commission.

Last Updated March 27, 2021