Auburn University to replace Magnolia Avenue Oak in July

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Auburn University will remove the Auburn Oak on West Magnolia Avenue and replace it with a live oak of the same size in early July.

"We've worked closely with the tree contractor and our Facilities Management Landscape Services team to provide the best care for the oaks, but the lack of bud growth on the Magnolia Avenue tree has caused concern for its long-term viability," said Ben Burmester, Auburn University campus planner.

Although the tree is alive, it seems to be surviving on stored carbohydrates from the existing roots and not producing any new root growth to force new bud/leaf growth, said Steven Johnston, Auburn University Facilities Management landscape superintendent.

"Trees capture light energy from the sun to help make their food. Without leaves, the Magnolia Avenue tree cannot gather energy and is now getting by on diminishing carbohydrates. The longer the tree is leafless, the less chance it has of surviving. With the onset of summer, we do not feel the tree will be able grow new leaves in time to recover and survive the stressful cold winter months."

The tree will be replaced by Thoms Trees and Plants. Tim Thoms, the contractor in charge of relocating the trees, provided the university with a one-year guarantee agreeing that if a tree died from transplanting, the tree would be replaced in-kind with a tree from the company's pre-dug stock.

"Utilizing a nursery raised and pre-dug tree provides more certainty that the tree will survive," said Gary Keever, Auburn University professor of horticulture and Facilities Management landscape consultant. "The replacement tree, which was dug this past winter, continues to maintain a canopy similar to the College Street tree. This shows the tree has weathered the initial digging well and provides additional assurance it will continue to grow when relocated to Auburn."

According to Burmester, the university purchased a third tree with the intent it would be utilized as a replacement if there were any immediate problems during shipping and planting of the two trees at Toomer's Corner.

"After the two trees were successfully planted at Toomer's Corner, we planted the third tree at the Facilities Management complex," he said.

Although consideration was given to replacing the Magnolia Avenue Oak with the Facilities tree, the university decided it would be best to use the stock tree provided by the contractor. The Facilities tree remains an option if additional problems arise in the future.

"Transplanting a tree is stressful," Keever said. "The Facilities tree was planted in February and moving it again so soon would add additional stress that we don't want to put on the tree and risk its survival."

University officials are working with the City of Auburn and its contractor for the intersection redevelopment project to coordinate removal and replacement of the Magnolia Avenue tree so that there is no impact on the City's project or downtown traffic.

As for the future of the current Magnolia Avenue Oak, the university is considering transplanting the tree to another location on campus to give the tree all the opportunity to survive, according to Burmester.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.