Each tree that occupies Auburn University’s canopy has a story of its own.
From freezing winters to scorching summers, the more than 8,500 trees in the university’s core area, plus those outside it, comprise more than 120 species.
Each tree contributes to making the campus’ 600 acres some of the loveliest in the southeast — and each tree was a part of Auburn recently earning its ninth consecutive Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.
“The Tree Campus USA designation is foundational in achieving Landscape Services’ goal of making Auburn University one of the best urban forest collections in the country,” said Alex Hedgepath, university arborist. Auburn is one of only 344 campuses across the nation that qualified to earn the designation for 2018.
This spring, Hedgepath and the team at Facilities Management’s Landscape Services Department will plant more than 100 trees and transplant five to new spots on the campus to better align with the university’s Landscape Master Plan and to continue increasing Auburn’s forest canopy.
“Growing Auburn’s canopy coverage percentage is extremely important in terms of aesthetics, sustainability and user-comfort,” Hedgepath said. “More canopy spread means more shade and more carbon storage.”
Hedgepath was named Auburn’s first university arborist in 2015. It is his job to maintain the health of Auburn’s trees, while maintaining the safety and beauty of the campus.
“Since 2015, Landscape Services has averaged planting over 100 large, field-grown trees. Over 100 containerized trees were planted in 2016 and nearly 1,000 pine seedlings have been planted between 2016 and 2017,” Hedgepath said. “These numbers only represent what Landscape Services is responsible for. Projects associated with Facilities Management are recorded separately. For 2017, 83 trees were planted in association with a capital project.”
There are times trees must be removed from campus and this takes place for a variety of reasons, from safety or general declination to construction. As Auburn University continues to grow, space will continue to come at a premium.
Each tree removed by Landscape Services is approved by the Tree Preservation Committee, which helps sustain and manage the continued growth of Auburn’s trees.
“Expansion of our canopy is an ongoing challenge, mostly due to the large amount of development that continues to take place on campus,” Campus Planning Director Richard Guether said. “While we work diligently to preserve our canopy, sometimes we need to remove trees and replace them before we can expand.”
Every tree that is removed is replaced by a new tree or transferred somewhere else on campus to allow growth to continue unimpeded, both natural and man-made.
Along with the Tree Preservation Committee, Auburn must maintain a tree care plan and a tree program with dedicated expenditures, as well as hold an annual Arbor Day observance and a service project to remain within the requirements of the designation from the Auburn Day Foundation.
“The Tree Campus USA designation is one we’re proud of here at Auburn,” Guether said. “Facilities Management will continue to work closely with the Office of Sustainability and the Tree Preservation Committee to maintain this honor.”
Auburn’s dedication to its trees is unquestionable. With Hedgepath making consistent strides toward keeping the campus canopy diversified, beautiful and growing, Auburn’s trees will continue to give more and more toward the campus’ future landscape and hardscape endeavors.