Easy Being a Tree at Smith
you’ve taken a walk across the Smith campus lately,
you may have noticed: a few trees that once dependably cast
yawning, cool shadows across familiar walkways are now gone.
A towering oak tree behind Seelye Hall was recently
felled due to extensive root decay.
oak tree behind Seelye Hall, for example, was recently taken
down because of extensive root decay, explains Jay Girard,
landscape manager in the Botanic Garden. “About three quarters
of the root system was decayed, which could be seen on the
stump. A large limb fell in late June, hitting two staff
vehicles, prompting the quick removal.”
And the elm tree standing tall
in front of John M. Greene Hall had contracted Dutch Elm
disease, necessitating its removal. “It declined very quickly
and could not be saved,” says Girard.
Several other campus trees are
being monitored and tested, and may be removed,
Girard says, either due to disease, or the fact that they
could become hazardous once they are past
their prime healthy years.
campus, with multiple construction projects and unnatural
settings, is generally not an ideal place for a tree to flourish,
Girard explains. “Often, construction
projects cannot avoid damaging roots. When roots are cut
they can rot back into the trunk, and although the tree looks
healthy its support wood is rotten, and the tree becomes
a hazard, sometimes five to 20 years later.”
Also, he explains, when trees
are planted amid lawns or near sidewalks—unlike
their natural forest habitat—much of their biological support
system is removed. “Also,
we take away the debris, such as fallen leaves and dead weeds,
that would replenish nutrients into the soil and regulate
soil temperature. We take away the natural shade and strip
the soil of symbiotic soil organisms. In short, the act of
putting a tree in a landscape setting is somewhat stressful
for the tree.”
On the other hand, a typical
tree at Smith receives intense ongoing scrutiny and care
from Botanic Garden and grounds professionals, such as Girard.
Botanic Garden arborists may
have recently saved a towering, shade-casting elm in front
of Chapin House.
Though it may have contracted
Dutch Elm disease, like the John M. Greene elm, Botanic Garden
staff quickly took action and removed the infected portion
and treated the tree with fungicide.
“We believe we have saved that elm for now,” says Girard.