Arboretum staff works to ensure AU’s trees remain healthy
The majority of AU’s 58 trees on campus are healthy, despite damage from storms and utility work, according to AU landscape architect Mike Mastrota.
According to data provided by AU Arboretum staff, of the 58 trees on the main quad and surrounding Hurst, 47 of the trees are in “stable” (good, very good or excellent) condition, 9 trees are in “fair” condition, while two are rated as being in “poor” condition. The staff measures the health status of the arboretum by measuring the trees’ foliage, growth and root condition. The diverse collection of flora around AU’s campus has grown to include over 2,800 trees of more than 130 different species.
Utility work on campus, such as subterranean landscaping is one of the biggest biggest threats to the trees, Senior Groundskeeper Jessica Lubell said. Natural weather issues can also have a long-term impact.
The trees on campus suffer expected damage over the years of their existence due to the urban habitat, which includes foot traffic and the presence of utilities like pipes and power lines, Lubell added.
“The way we care for trees have greatly improved, as many trees can be damaged by utility work,” Mastrota said. “Since trees can be replaced, we work rigorously with utility companies also to keep the trees as healthy as possible.”
Mastrota works with Grounds Operation Coordinator Stephanie DeStefano and Lubell, who are both certified arborists and help oversee the trees receive proper treatment.
“We have two trees in poor condition right now, one in front of Kay [Spiritual Life Center] that is right now basically only half a tree and looking very ugly and the other is by Hurst [Hall],” Lubell said. “The biggest enemy of the trees is definitely utilities. We work really hard to avoid damage, but most right now are in great condition.”
The two trees in poor condition are heading in two different directions, Lubell said. The tree by Hurst, damaged in a storm, is improving while the tree by Kay, which suffered damage to its roots, will likely need to be replaced.
The University goes to great lengths to protect and preserve the flora on campus in its best possible state, Lubell and DeStefano said. The oldest tree on campus, which is 125 years old, is in front of Hurst. The tree is protected from lightning by grounding wires that run up and down the surface of the tree and deep into the ground, DeStefano said.
Though the presence of utilities on campus has increased over the past few years because of more construction, the three team members reiterated their dedication to the protection of the trees on campus. Frequently, trees that are in the way of a project are replanted somewhere else.
“For example, we had to lose about 35 trees for the McKinley addition project, several of which were in poor condition,” Lubell said. “But a couple good ones were able to be replanted in the Hughes rain garden, and it allowed us to use the opportunity to plant 161 new trees when the project was over. We really saved most of what we could.”
A fixture on campus since 2004, the arboretum and gardens at AU have grown to become a vital and indispensable parts of the University that need high-quality, year-round care in order to be sustained in an urban environment.
Mastrota, DeStefano and Lubell all outlined the importance of the arboretum and its constant upkeep on campus, in addition to the help the University provides in making sure the arboretum remains a priority.
“The database we keep on the trees in addition to our team is really important, it shows the University really understands the importance of having a nice campus setting for the students,” Mastrota said.