Shelter From the Cold

The annual burial of the Capen Garden fig tree

by Zoe Gioja ’13

fig standsEvery year, the fig tree in Capen Garden takes a long winter’s nap: The tree is wrapped up, buried in a long trench, and covered with soil to protect it from New England’s harsh winters.

Accustomed to the warm and subtropical regions of western Asia, the tree (Ficus carica) needs special protection from low temperatures. Burying it for the winter protects it from the cold and also keeps some of the roots intact, which means a new plant can be grown from root suckers if the upper portions of the tree don’t survive the winter.

Madelaine Zadik, the Botanic Garden’s manager for education and outreach, says garden records don’t show how old the tree is, but its annual burial is well-established. “Burying the fig tree has been a tradition for at least 50 years,” Zadik said. “It’s just one of those things that’s a Smith tradition.”

Photo: Pamela Dods AC ’08