Keeping Carolina green

The University of South Carolina's tree maintenance crew keeps the campus trees beautiful, sustainable and, most importantly, safe. With more than 7,000 trees representing about 80 species on the Columbia campus, the team has their work cut out for them to keep Carolina a Tree Campus USA. We caught up with the team to find out how they keep campus green. 

Why are trees important to the Columbia campus?

UofSC was designated a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2009 and has held that distinction each year since. The historic Horseshoe Tree Grove is  home to the 2007 Heritage Tree Award, an award that is given annually by Trees SC, a statewide organization which recognizes Heritage Trees across the state. The Horseshoe tree grove was recognized because it is an important icon and part of the history of this university. Records dating back to 1889 depict a layout of shade trees on the Horseshoe and that tradition continues today. University facilities is committed to preserving that past by maintaining healthy, safe trees.

What does the university’s tree team do?

Led by a certified arborist (International Society of Arboriculture), university facilities plants hundreds of trees each year to add to the campus forest through new projects and to replace trees that have been removed for a number of reasons. Sometimes, trees must be removed.  

What are some reasons trees might need to be removed?

Tree health and safety considerations — when defects in trees become dangerous because of extensive rot and decay or if a tree’s root system is compromised from construction or utility repairs. Location and construction — when trees are growing in contrast to new construction and there are no viable means to preserve the tree in a safe manner. Tree removals are vetted at several levels in the administration so that people are informed and educated when needed. Tree replacements are generally planted in the fall and winter months after the removals take place. 

 What is the team doing about this?

Recently, the facilities tree crew has removed a number of trees because of hazardous situations or because of conflict with new construction projects. The facilities department has developed tree preservation guidelines for preserving trees during construction. The guidelines are part of the design and construction process for new facilities. There are times when preserving a tree or trees does not work with building a new facility and in those cases, the loss of trees are mitigated by the planting of new trees in the area and proximity of the specific project.

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