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State Capitol’s beloved tree still growing strong nearly a century and a half later

The catalpa tree on the State Capitol grounds on a sunny day
Michigan State Capitol
The catalpa tree sits on the east lawn of the Capitol grounds.

If you’ve ever visited the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, you may have passed or sat under one of the state's oldest, largest and most historic catalpa trees.

The tree sits on the east lawn of the building. It’s as old as the Capitol is, if not older. It’s been there since 1879, around the time the grounds were completed, according to Capitol Assistant Facility Director Matt White.

“They’re fast growers, got big beautiful flowers on them, big leaves. They’re kind of a late spring bloomer, but they’re really pretty," he said.

The non-profit American Forests deemed it the largest catalpa in the country in 1992. The tree also served as co-champion for several years.

Though it has since been beaten by larger catalpas, White says his staff is still proud of the one they have.

They also partner with Michigan State University to continue the tree's legacy.

“We collect the seeds in the fall and will deliver them out to MSU [Department of Forestry], and they will take the seeds and propagate them out in the green houses,” he said, ”Every spring, we have maybe 100, 200 trees, maybe even more."

He says the Capitol often gifts seedlings to legislators and staff with some also going to members of the public.

Melorie Begay is WKAR-FM's weekend host and a general assignment reporter.
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