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New growth: Latest phase of tree replacement begins in December

Drone photo of the Furman Mall and the Milford Mall.
Trees along Milford Mall were replaced in 2017; trees along the Mall, from PAC Circle to the Chapel (at the top left in the photo), will be replaced next month.

The next step of a multi-year project to remove aging and dying trees around the Furman University campus is scheduled to begin in early December, when 40 oaks lining the mall from PAC circle to the chapel will be replaced.

A map showing six stages of tree replacement around campus.
(Click to enlarge.) Stands of dead and dying trees around campus are being replaced in stages, starting with trees around the main entrance in 2014.

The lifespans of the current trees – pin, water and willow oaks planted in between 1956 and 1958, when the then-new campus was not far removed from cotton and corn fields – are relatively short among the hundreds of oak species. The trunks of these oaks on campus have hollowed and large limbs have started breaking and crashing, causing safety hazards to the many drivers, walkers and runners who pass beneath their canopy, says Jeff Redderson, assistant vice president of Facilities and Campus Services.

Many of the trees are fortunate to have survived this long; they weren’t the strongest specimens, Redderson says, and many were “topped” before they were planted, a once-common practice of cutting the leading trunk, resulting in a weakness that retains water. Over the years, the trees are vulnerable to rot and disease, like a long tooth with a cavity that extends from crown to roots.

Another benefit of the replanting will be cleaner air. Because the existing trees are rotting on the inside, they’re giving off carbon dioxide, negatively impacting the carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange taking place in their leaves, says Joe Pollard, the Rose J. Forgione Professor of Biology who has been instrumental in studying Furman’s landscape, especially its trees, since coming here in 1988.

“A young, healthy, rapidly growing tree has more benefits than an old tree that’s on its way out,” Pollard says. And, he says, “the little trees won’t stay little for long.”

“We love our trees,” Redderson adds. “They give so much character and charm to our famously beautiful Furman campus and they provide habitat and forage for wildlife. While it hurts to see them go, it feels good knowing that we have a long-term plan to replace them with trees that are better suited for our campus, and which will live for centuries into Furman’s future.”

What’s coming

The university has chosen as replacement trees several species of oaks with lifespans from 250 to more than 400 years: overcup (Quercus lyrata), Nuttall’s (Quercus texana), scarlet (Quercus coccinea) and swamp white (Quercus bicolor).

The new trees will stand about 35 feet tall when planted, and each will grow to be as large or larger than the current trees, topping out at around 60 to 80 feet or more and spreading 40 to 50 feet. The overcup, scarlet and swamp white oaks will grow about 2 feet a year, while the Nuttall’s oak will grow even faster.

Timing

The project will take several weeks, with the trees on the chapel side of the mall being removed from Dec. 3 through about Dec. 19, and trees on the campus side being removed from Dec. 20 through the first week or two of January. Once all the trees are removed the soil will be prepared and the new trees will be planted.

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A large tree spade, a planting device like a backhoe, plants a young tree on a sunny day.
New oak trees were planted on Milford Mall in 2017.

Starting Dec. 3, the stretch of the mall road between the PAC and the chapel will become two-way. Starting around Dec. 20, when the campus-side trees will be replaced, traffic between the PAC and the chapel will be rerouted through the chapel parking lot.

Lights 

Because the root systems of the existing trees are so extensive, the road will be repaved. New sod will replace bare areas and new LED lighting will be installed on both sides of the road.

In 2016, trees along the Milford Mall were replaced, giving campus goers a preview of what’s to come along the mall. In subsequent years trees next to buildings and around the PAC circle were replaced. Next winter, trees from the chapel to the main entrance will be replaced.

Did you know?

Furman is a Tree Campus USA and is home to the George G. Willis Jr. Arboretum. Gracie Bartel ’22 is a Sustainability Science major from Charlotte, North Carolina, and a garden and arboretum fellow working with Pollard. Among her jobs is the maintenance and replacement of labels on nearly 300 trees on campus, representing about different 90 species. This geographic information system website will show you where many of them are.

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