Willow Tree Oasis

The tree isn’t just a part of the campus aesthetic—it also represents much of the Mission’s history.

Willow Tree Oasis
“The [horse] cars roll along between these two rows of trees; and in summer, when the willows have their leaves on, they form a vast arch for long distances, only here and there letting in the sunbeams.” —student essay, 1870. Photo by Joanne Lee

Find it on a grassy plaza where The Alameda—a four-lane paved highway splitting campus—once ran. Three trees were planted in 2005 by the Catala Club to provide a place for shade and respite, and as a tribute to their namesake, mission-era priest Magin Catalá, who two centuries ago planted willows in the same space to make a leafy tunnel leading to the Mission Church.

Photo by Jim Gensheimer


The Catala Club was formed in 1930 for women interested in becoming a part of the Santa Clara family. For decades they have provided financial assistance and scholarships. The willow tree project was proposed by former club president Betty Ford to mark the club’s 75th anniversary and to ensure that this group—engaged in quiet, heartfelt work on behalf of SCU—had a special place on campus for both them and all to enjoy.


This tree, variety Salix matsudana, stands near the Patricia A. and Stephen C. Schott Admission and Enrollment Services Building. Native to the Southwest, this type is also known as “Navajo,” a fast-growing deciduous tree related to weeping willows but capable of tolerating drier climates.

Photo courtesy Serving the Intellect: A Portrait of Santa Clara University


Willow trees were planted in rows lining The Alameda in 1795. The last was removed in 1982. The road itself ran through campus until it was rerouted in 1988.



Photo courtesy SCU Digital Collections


Magin Catalá was born in Montblanc, Catalonia, Spain, in 1761. He joined the Franciscan Order and in 1794 arrived at Mission Santa Clara, where he served for the next 36 years. The intensity of his faith was such that, it is said, as he kneeled in prayer before the church crucifix he would levitate above the floor. His beatification started in 1884 and was completed in 1909.


Photo courtesy San Jose Public Library


The Río de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is the name bestowed on the waterway by the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition. The Virgin of Guadalupe was the principal patron saint of the expedition. The river flows north, 14 miles from its headwater creeks in the Santa Cruz Mountains down to the San Francisco Bay. Fr. Catalá took willow trees from the banks of this river in 1795 to plant along the mission path.


Read what Sam Scott ’96 wrote on the ladies of the Catala Club for their 80th anniversary in our winter 2010 edition. 

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