Deep roots

Workers remove a dying sugar maple, while a new elm (right) stands poised to take its place on the Academic Quad.

The venerable sugar maples towering over the Academic Quad are as iconic and beloved a sight on this campus as Swasey Chapel’s spire. So it’s a sad thing to watch three of the oldest and largest specimens come down this week after many decades of standing sentinel near the flagpole.

For those who have watched their branches thin and decline over the last several years, this comes as no surprise. Despite many pruning attempts to spare them for as long as possible, the trees reached the end of their lives, gradually losing most of their canopy—which is a very bad thing for a tree.

Fortunately, Denison’s tree committee has been planning for this loss for months, and new specimens are already being planted to grow into the empty spaces. The plan is to make the campus an arboretum, a place to enjoy and learn about the wide range of species that grow in central Ohio.

Natives like black gum, beech, sourwood and various oaks are going in before winter, as well as hardier versions of the great American elm, which are being reintroduced to the area many years after Dutch elm disease nearly wiped out the once-common tree.

We’ll miss the old maples—their roots ran as deep on The Hill as they did in our hearts. But with rain and sun (and patience), the new trees will bring generations ahead a challenging obstacle course for their Frisbees and a welcoming place to sit in the shade.

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