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Hackberry Trees Planted on the ESF Quad

Trees added to campus soon after Illick and Moon constructed
6/29/2011

Rows of hackberry trees have graced the ESF quad for 40 years

The hackberrys, however, were not the first species to be planted on the quad after the construction of Moon Library and Illick Hall in 1968, according to Dr. Ralph D. Nyland, Distinguished Service Professor and a faculty member in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management.

As part of construction projects that included Moon Library and Illick Hall, a contractor cut into the original gradual slope that filled the space between Bray Hall and Hendricks Field, Nyland said. "If you stand at the entrance to Moon and look toward the steps of Bray you get a sense of how much soil and subsoil was removed," he said.

After the existing grade was established and the two buildings were constructed a contractor planted sugar maple trees in two lines along each sidewalk. Within two years, the sugar maples died, Nyland said. Experts concluded soil conditions would not support tree growth as the soil was too hard, too limited in nutrients, and likely too dry during summer.

To remedy this problem a contractor dug trenches from the foot of steps leading down hill from Bray - in front of Illick and in front of Marshall. Those trenches extended down to the steps leading west along each side of the library. Then the contractor filled each trench with soil that had better nutrients, texture, and drainage capacity. The hackberry trees were planted in 1971.

The hackberry trees did well until recently. ESF researchers are currently discussing the cause of the hackberry trees' recent decline in health.

Said Dr. Donald J. Leopold, chair of the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, "There is not total agreement as to the cause but I think that the sidewalk construction in recent years followed by severe drought last spring and extreme flooding this spring have resulted in few if any functional roots on trees that appear dead. The trees that haven't yet leafed out are likely not going to leaf out. There's a slim chance that these might sprout from the base if cut."

Options for the trees are currently under discussion.

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