The only Valencia orange tree on the University of Miami’s grounds stands out among the multitude of trees lining the neatly manicured campus.
Located between the Bowman Foster Ashe Administration Building and the Dooley Memorial Classroom Building, the tree is designated as the university’s “spirit tree.”
The spirit tree was planted in 1991 after students prodded William R. Butler, former university vice president and founder of the Butler Center for Volunteer Service & Leadership Development, about the lack of an orange trees on campus.
“In 1991, several student leaders came to my office and said, ‘Dr. Butler, you keep talking about the fact that the university’s three colors are taken from the Valencia orange tree, but do you know, there is not a single orange tree on our campus’,” wrote Butler in his book Embracing the World: The University of Miami from Cardboard College to International Acclaim.
The tree was planted during Homecoming festivities in honor of Helen Wilson, who died that same year after 47 years of service as an assistant to the university’s first three presidents.
As a symbol of the university’s spirit, one might expect to see a staggering, fully-grown orange tree, branches drooping from the weight of the blossoming fruit.
In reality, however, the spirit tree is merely the puny little tree students overlook each day as they walk between the Ashe and Memorial buildings. That’s because the tree was replanted two years ago after the original spirit tree was destroyed during the storms that hit South Florida in 2005.
The orange, green, and white colors that so many students and Canes fans don to show their spirit for the university stem from this very type of tree – orange for the fruit, green for the leaves and white for the blossoms.
“The fact that we actually have the tree that our colors were derived from and that there is only one on the entire campus I think symbolizes a lot,” junior Erin Gameson said.
The spirit tree has also been the setting for student celebrations during Homecoming.
This year, competing organizations will participate in the spirit tree competition by hanging custom-made ornaments on the tree.
The event takes place on Thursday, Nov. 5, directly after the Alma Mater finals and the last Iron Arrow tapping. Each participating organization creates an ornament to hang on the tree.
In accordance with this year’s theme each ornament must have a music note on it. Ornaments will remain on the tree until the Hurricane Howl event on Friday, Nov. 6.