Campus Arboretum to Lose Beloved Trees

March 8, 2018:

UPDATE: During Spring Break, March 10 - 18, the Smith College Arboretum will be losing two old, beloved, central campus trees. In both cases, decay-causing pathogens have weakened them to the point that they will soon present an unacceptable risk of danger to our community. The first is a mature European Beech in the center of Seelye lawn. For years, this tree has been battling a fungal disease called bleeding canker that attacks beech trees throughout the Northeastern United States and has been slowly killing large parts of the trunk and upper canopy of this particular tree for years.  Vigorous attempts by the Botanic Garden staff to treat the disease with a systemic fungicide and aggressive pruning of diseased wood have proven unsuccessful and we anticipate that little of the tree would remain living by the spring. 

The second tree is the northernmost red oak in the grand alleé in front of Neilson library near Hatfield Hall. Two years ago, fungal conchs (mushrooms) of Bondarzewia berkeleyi, an aggressive root rot fungus emerged, at the base of this tree and larger ones appeared this summer. The presence of these conchs is an indicator of advanced fungal infection accompanied by advanced decay of the trunk and roots.This disease typically presents few symptoms in the upper canopy of trees giving the appearance of health, but undiagnosed trees have been known to fall under normal wind and snow loads.  There is no treatment to reverse the progression of this disease.

In a typical year, the Botanic Garden removes a few trees, big and small, that are either failing or that have been determined to be inappropriate for our collection such as those deemed to be invasive in our environment. The loss of these particular centenarian specimens that add so much to the feeling and beauty of our landscape is upsetting and we are grateful to the many who share our love and reverence for these treasures.

Red oak tree showing fungus growing at its base