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Native Tree to Replace Long-Dead Oak

(Photo - Oak tree)If a tree falls at SLAC, will anyone hear it? You will if you're near Building 40, where today Newcomb Tree Services will be removing a coast live oak that succumbed to Sudden Oak Death. Tomorrow, the company will grind down and remove the stump.

Bare stumps in other parts of campus testify to the difficulty of removing a tree's roots. As Facilities Department Head Liam Robinson explained, "Although we typically wouldn't go through the expense of removing tree stumps—they naturally decay—this time we'll be planting a new one in the same spot." The introduction of a young Quercus lobata, or "Valley Oak," will occur on Wednesday, when the work turns over to Jensen Landscaping. Before insertion of the new tree, the group will have to excavate the remaining root system and dig a hole 36" deep to accommodate the incoming root box.

Dead trees on SLAC grounds are occasionally removed if they pose a hazard to personnel or property, said Robinson. But the decision in this case was made for aesthetic measures: the tree occupies a rather prominent location on campus, adjacent to the Central Lab Building and a well-traveled footpath. "We really should have a nice, picturesque tree there instead of a dead one," said Robinson. Calling the incumbent tree's disease an "independent event," he added that it has posed no risk to surrounding flora.

Native to this region of Northern California, the Valley Oak is expected to thrive. The tree was chosen expressly for this reason, as well as its insusceptibility to Sudden Oak Death. Robinson described the tree as a large deciduous with distinctly lobed leaves and long acorns.

The work will proceed according to a carefully drawn up safety plan. The particulars of the site—such as the presence of underground pipes and utilities and the incline of the ground itself—necessitate clear guidelines for each step, including unexpected variables.

SLAC University Technical Representative Carlos Pereria is overseeing all activities, and an arborist from Arbor Logic is looking out for the well-being of neighboring trees.

The area will be cordoned off for safety, and chainsaw use will be limited to the times of lowest foot traffic. Expect periodic noise and possible entrance blockages.

ZoŽ Macintosh, SLAC Today, July 21, 2008

Above image: This coast live oak succumbed to Sudden Oak Death and is being removed today.