Thursday, August 14, 2008

Speaking for the Beeches

We lost another of the lovely copper beeches on Wesleyan's campus Tuesday. The beech in front of Davidson Art Center was cut down. It was an enormous tree: the tree trunk was nearly 5' in diameter. A closer inspection reveals how extreme the rot was inside. Except for about 8-10" around the exterior, the inside was entirely rotten. I guess the tree's days were numbered ever since it lost a major limb over the winter. Though I await our tree historians' opinions, I am guessing is that this tree was probably planted in the 1830's, which I base on the fact that the Russell House would have been constructed the decade before.

The copper beeches on the campus hold a special place in my heart because I looked at each one to decide which was the best specimen for a drawing I did in high school. The best one, I decided, was to the north of Davidson. It was the gnarliest of all of them. That quadrangle is simply not the same since it's been removed. It's almost like the King is no longer surveying his court.
Maybe this is the opportunity to share some important information about caring for these giants. These copper beech trees are very special and rare but they demand respect. Jane Harris tells us that the roots of these trees do not like to be disturbed or built over. Recent construction behind the Film Center, to create a retaining wall within the drip line of one beech, has significantly shortened that tree's life. We will also likely lose the two trees to the right of the Russell House, following the construction of the handicap ramp, which was built over their roots.

I certainly hope these trees are replaced. We will be the poorer without them.

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