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Saturday, October 16, 2021

UC Davis trees rooted on campus

The UC Davis campus alone is home to over 10,000 trees, not including the Arboretum, with new species being planted regularly. For some students they provide shade or a place to hangout. For everyone, they provide oxygen. And though some of the trees have been around as long as the school, their origins are not widely known.

In support of the trees and their stories, The California Aggie sat down with senior landscape architect Skip Mezger and assistant landscape architect Christina De Martini Reye to get the dirt on these campus giants.

Tree: Cork Oak

Alias: Quercus suber

Location: North, East and West Quad

Native land: Mediterranean, Spain

Year introduced: 1925

The dirt: Palm Trees lined the Quad before the Cork Oak was introduced. It is suspected that the trees were introduced to add more shade. In addition, there may have been some interest in seeing if cork could be harvested and used for bottled wine.

In 1941, a grove of Cork Oaks were planted by Mrak Hall in reaction to World War II. A shortage of materials was anticipated and cork was in high demand. But the war ended before the trees were any help – it takes 50 years to grow cork.

Tree: Chinese Hackberry

Alias: Celtis sinensis

Location: California Avenue, Hutchison Drive

Native land: China

Year introduced: 1950s

The dirt: Though this tree was widely planted in the ’50s and ’60s, a root disease has caused the trees to yellow and slowly decline in population. Sulfur is currently being added to the soil to improve their health, but the tree is no longer being planted.

In recent years, an aphid problem garnered public attention. The trees were secreting honey-like dew, which often dropped on cars and pedestrians. The problem has since gone away.

Tree: Coast Redwoods

Alias: Sequoia sempervirens

Location: the Quad

Native land: California Coast

Year introduced: 1935

The dirt: There are more Coast Redwoods on campus than any other tree. However, the plants now have a disease, which De Martini Reye and Mezger said might be a reaction to the hard water in Davis. The dead trees are being removed and are not being replaced.

The Quad trees play a particular role in school culture: One tree has a bell held up by twine, said Rob Ireland, a senior mechanical engineer major and regular tree-sitter. In March 2009, Ireland left a notebook and camera up in the same tree for people to document their experiences. The notebook was stolen by June 2009 and Ireland retrieved the camera.

Tree: American Elm

Alias: Ulmus Americana

Location: Shields Avenue

Native land: East Coast

Year introduced: 1910

The dirt: American Elms were introduced to the UC Davis campus around the time the university was founded. Recommended by the head gardener at UC Berkeley, elms were the popular trees of the time, known for providing shade and releasing messy seeds.

Then came the Dutch Elm disease, whipping out many elms around the area. Sacramento is still removing diseased trees. In the last five years, however, researchers at UC Davis have developed new strains of the trees, said to be Dutch Elm resistant. Some of these have been planted. Mezger and De Martini Reye said they look promising.

Tree: California Live Oak

Alias: Quercus agrifolia

Location: Howard Way

Native land: California coast

Year introduced: 1920s

The dirt: Howard Way was originally planned to be the major entry onto campus because of its proximity to Highway 113. So the street was lined with California Live Oaks, likely as a Labor Day project.

Today, the trees are marked with the dates that they were planted.

To take the Campus Tree Walk and to see a complete list of all the campus trees (with a map), visit facilities.ucdavis.edu/bldg_grnds/grounds/Treewalk%20Site%202-24-05/index.html

BECKY PETERSON can be reached features@theaggie.org. 

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