Contributed by Eric Nelson, Manager of Grounds Services
Oct. 28, 2018
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — You may have noticed more sunlight than usual on the east side
of Stevenson Hall beginning in early October, when a giant bur oak tree succumbed
early one morning to a weekend of heavy rain.
Although we can’t positively verify the rumor that the fallen tree was the oldest
on campus, we can say with some certainty that it was one of the top-10 senior members
of the campus urban forest. While it is always sad to lose a campus tree, it is especially
so when it is one that has shared so much campus history.
Campus arborist Ken Detloff had been keeping a close eye on the tree since early summer
when he noticed the tree’s lean had increased. As the degree of westward lean continued
to increase over the fall, the sad determination was made to have the tree removed,
on Friday, Oct. 19, during Fall Break. But, Mother Nature had other plans.
Anyone who took a close-up look at the downed tree may have noticed that the dirt
ball accompanying the base contained almost no visible root structure, an anomaly
in such an old tree, which one would expect to have roots as long as six feet or more.
Roots not only provide a tree’s nourishment, they also hold it in place during heavy
rain or high wind.
Due to its longevity, this tree had lived through many campus construction projects
over the years. First was the construction of Sheean Library and its subsequent demolition
to make way for the building of State Farm Hall. Also, during the 1980s, a fiber optics
line was trenched in along the east side of the tree. These projects involved grade
changes and compaction of the root system that resulted in the degradation of the
root structure, weakening the base support of the tree.
As for the future of the tree, much of the canopy became mulch that will be used locally.
The tree will also provide a great deal of local firewood. We kept slices from the
base for the purpose of dating the tree and perhaps creating a display showing a timeline
of campus history.
It was hoped that the main trunk could be milled, with the boards used to create a
bench or study table. However, upon closer examination it could not be determined
that the core was clean of any potential metal debris from years past and was deemed
unsuitable to be milled. And perhaps its most distinguished legacy: a piece of the
tree will appear in an upcoming campus drama production this spring.
We are fortunate that, thanks in part to the generosity of donors, we have an ongoing
tree development plan for the campus. This fall, for example, we received a donation
from Homefield Energy for the purchase of 12 trees. At this time a list is being compiled
and placements decided. Anyone can donate a tree by contacting the University Advancement
Office by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling: (309) 556-3091.