Looking to create a richly varied composition, George Washington sought the most handsome or “clever kind of trees (especially flowering ones)” for his landscape.

On a cold January morning in 1785, George Washington rode out around his estate, “in search of the sort of Trees I shall want for my Walks, groves, and Wildernesses.” His intimate knowledge of nature allowed him to identify, by only their bare limbs, poplars, locusts, sassafras, dogwoods, and maples “of proper size for transplanting.” Over the next several weeks, Washington carefully oversaw the transplanting of trees along the serpentine walks of the bowling green and in the groves at each end of the Mansion.

Looking to create a richly varied composition, Washington sought the most handsome or “clever kind of trees (especially flowering ones)” for his landscape. He chose these trees primarily from his own plantation, but he also wrote friends and family seeking additional varieties that were not native to Virginia. From his nephew in South Carolina, Washington sought two varieties of magnolia, with their large white blossoms and glossy leaves. He also wrote Governor George Clinton of New York seeking the evergreen “Balm tree, White & Spruce pine” for his pine labyrinths at the western end of the bowling green.

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Our integrated plant finder helps you identify the names and details of many trees found at Mount Vernon.

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What's the Oldest Tree at Mount Vernon?


Learn about the oldest trees on George Washington's property with Dean Norton, director of horticulture at Mount Vernon. Several of these "living witnesses" date back to the 18th century-- and even earlier!

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