Goodbye, Old Friend
Iconic Quad crab apple tree felled by winds
(Jan. 3, 2013) One of two crab apple trees that have for decades been the Quad’s best place to perch, was felled by high winds during winter break. “This was a unique tree, a companion to so many people for so many years,” said Melissa Acker, UNC Asheville grounds superintendent and landscape director, who will have the sad task of supervising removal of the tree.
The trees have been campus icons for as long as most on campus can remember. “We’re guessing it was planted when Lipinsky Hall was completed,” said Acker. That would date the tree to 1964. The other crab apple, closer to the entrance of Lipinsky Hall, remains. Both trees have shown the effects of age and have needed cables to support the weight of limbs.
“With most trees, we prune them to produce a straight trunk and a crown that supports it, but I’m guessing that these trees grew naturally for a lot of years and so they took their own form rather than being heavily pruned and shaped, and that’s one reason you don’t see many trees like that,” said Acker.
Planted on the Quad lawn with no nearby trees for competition, the crab apples spread their branches wide. The tree that fell in December produced branches that were a joy to climb, and had room for many people to relax together in the shade.
Reaction from those returning to campus after winter break was visceral and immediate. Junior Caitlin Sands saw the fallen tree when she came to campus on Jan. 2 and quickly posted on Facebook,“My heart broke when this tree did.” Sands loved sitting underneath the tree, reading or studying while other students lounged in the limbs above. “It was really a part of the campus and it’s sad to see it go.”
As the news spread, others with longtime ties to campus were also saddened by the news. Howard Harmon, who served as university grounds supervisor from 1971-1988 and tended to the trees when they were younger, said thinking about the loss of the tree brought a tear to his eye. “It is a fond memory, kind of heartbreaker, but everything has a longevity period,” said Harmon. “Many times I stood on the steps of the library and looked down over the Quad when those beautiful trees were in bloom, and it was such a beautiful picture.”
The tree was split by high winds on Dec. 21, when winds gusted up to 47 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The winds also took down three other trees on campus – pine trees on Campus Drive and near Phillips Hall, and an oak near the lower parking lot (now called P 26) downhill from Zeis Hall. But the crab apple on the Quad was special and is receiving special treatment even in death.
“Usually we remove downed trees in the most efficient manner, so we can keep a road or path clear” said Acker. “But this tree is an old friend and won’t go straight into a chipper. We left it on the Quad for several days so people could see what happened to it when they returned after winter break. And Friday morning (Jan. 4), a few of us will go out early and start to clear the wood in as respectful way as we can. Small branches will be used as mulch, so they won’t leave the campus, and we’ll save all of the larger pieces so they can be used in some meaningful way.”
The trunk will be cut down to ground level but the roots will be left in the ground, at least for now, while decisions are made about new planting. “That seems better than bringing in a tractor and digging out the roots right now,” said Acker. “That is a special place on the Quad and we should take our time and think through what we want to do in that area.”