Glimpse into the past – A Tale of Two Kames

Almost no one is aware that the Washington Park Arboretum is the location of two kames. “Kames, what is that?” everyone asks. Wikipedia tells us that “a kame is a geomorphological feature, an irregularly shaped hill or mound composed of sand, gravel and till that accumulates in a depression on a retreating glacier.”

Located just east of Lake Washington Boulevard E. and just north of the intersection with Boyer Avenue S., the two kames were given the names Honeysuckle Hill and Yew Hill. They were originally the planting sites of collections for plants in these families. To clarify the taxonomy, this is the Caprifoliaceae/Adoxaceae (Honeysuckle/Adoxa) family. If you find a plant with opposite leaves and pithy stems (the inside of the stem looks like stryofoam), this is the family. The yew family is known as the Taxaceae family, a coniferous family which includes mostly smaller evergreens. These site names were originally noted on the 1936 Dawson Plan for the Arboretum, completed by the Olmsted Brothers firm.

View across Azalea Way, west to Honeysuckle mound. April 14, 1948
View across Azalea Way, west to Honeysuckle mound. April 14, 1948

The photo above depicts a view looking west across Azalea Way, toward Honeysuckle Hill, on April 14, 1948. Notice that there is very little vegetation along Azalea Way, and the kame has been almost entirely mowed and covered with grass. A few remnant native trees remain. (Note: the photographs labeled by then-director Brian O. Mulligan called them mounds rather than hills or kames.)

View north from Honeysuckle mound to Yew mound. April 7, 1959
View north from Honeysuckle mound to Yew mound. April 7, 1959

The second photo, taken on April 7, 1959 (ten years later), is a view north from Honeysuckle Hill toward Yew Hill. Notice already how much taller the trees are and how many more trees are present. Today, these kames are almost entirely obscured by the vegetation and barely noticed by visitors. Nevertheless, they are an important geological legacy in the Arboretum.