To celebrate Arbor Day, eastern redbud trees were planted on the grounds of schools in Princeton in the final two weeks of April. Every year, these celebrations are spearheaded by our town arborist Lorraine Konopka and the Shade Tree Commission of Princeton. Ms Konopka explained how trees are planted and being cared for. Marquand Park bookmarks with information and pictures of the Easter redbud tree were handed out to students participating in the festivities. More bookmarks can be found in the tree library of the park in the coming weeks.
A new tree was planted at Marquand Park yesterday by David and Robert Wells along with help from Andy Sutphin. This was a 4.5 inch caliper red oak (Quercus rubra) that is 16 feet high and was planted along the north side of the back path leading to Mercer Street. It is a replacement tree for the huge red oak that was removed in 2014 in this same location. A cross sectional slice of the trunk of that tree may be seen next to the bulletin board near the parking lot. At the time that it died it was 110 years old and over 100 feet tall. Likely, it died from an infestation of Bacterial Leaf Scorch that was exacerbated by the drought of the summer of 2010. By the time of the 2013 inventory and assessment it was in very poor condition with more than 50% of the crown dead and presented a significant public hazard as many of those limbs overhung the walkway. The new tree was transplanted as a bare root tree using a technique of compressed air the blows away the soil around the roots without damaging them. A tree of this size transplanted in the conventional manner of digging out an earthen ball would have weighed over 1,000 pounds and been six feet wide by three feet deep. On a residential landscape installation, it would have cost $4,500. Without the soil the tree weighed approximately 250 pounds and was moved in 8 man hours with the rental of the compressor for $185 being the only expense.
The new red oak is a gift from David Wells, the owner of Wells Tree and Landscape, who is a Board-Certified Master Arborist and a New Jersey Certified Tree Expert. Wells Tree & Landscape is a firm that I started in July of 1973 and passed on to Dave in 2010. Additionally, he is the incoming President of the New Jersey Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. The oak was presented to Dave as a seedling in June of 2006 at his graduation from The School of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University. It is a long-standing tradition that red oak seedlings are presented to each graduate of that school when they receive their diploma. This was even more special in that Dave was a Teacher’s Assistant to the Dendrology class that collected all the acorns that were then grown up in the campus greenhouse to become the seedlings that were given away that year. The red oak is the State tree of New Jersey and all the acorns were collected from the trees that line the roadway in front of the Administration Building on campus. I was presented with a similar red oak at my graduation from there in 1985 and planted it on the east side of the Veblen House on Herrontown Road where it now has grown to be a mature 45-foot specimen. My dendrology professor and mentor in those days was Dr. John Kuser who brought us on field trips to Marquand Park which he described as “one of the finest arboreta in New Jersey”. As luck would have it, John Clark who holds the Leopold Chair of Environmental Science at Lawrenceville School and son of our much-loved Dr. Charles Clark, happened by as did Annette Merle Smith while we were planting. It was a fine moment to be planting the new generation of Marquand red oak with my son, the new generation of arborist, as my wife Loretta, and my pal Andy helped to raise it into place. For a moment, I thought I caught a glimpse of Doc Kuser watching us from the woods and smiling – I know that he would approve.
To read the QR codes on the tree signs in the park, you must have a smartphone equipped with a camera and a QR code reader app. If you do not have already this app download a QR code reader/scanner app. It is easy and most QR readers are free. Open the app and center the QR code within the square outline on the screen. Try to steady your hand while you center the QR code in the square. Depending on the app you use, the page linked to the URL stored in the QR code or directions to open the link to the page will show on the screen of your phone. The page has information on the tree you are looking at.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of arboriculture is the variety of unusual situations that we encounter each day. Every job presents its own unique set of challenges that often require some creativity to solve.
We were recently called in by a contractor for the New Jersey Dept. of Transportation to advise them on the best way to remove a long dead elm stump that had grown into the foundation of an historic grist mill on the Stoney Brook River in Princeton New Jersey. In fact, the 30 foot tall laid stone wall in the image below is the only remaining portion of the Quaker Settlement Mill that was one of the first structures built in Princeton in the 1670’s. The Quaker Meeting House was erected a few hundred yards away and by 1700 this was a thriving community. Seventy seven year later years later having crossed the Stoney Brook Bridge where the Mill was located, Washington’s troops fought the Battle of Princeton in Clarke’s orchard a half mile away.
The wall is bowed in spots and the cement chinking has largely eroded. Many of the red shale stone that make up this structure are loose or have fallen out. Additionally the wall is located less than three feet from a busy State Highway that accommodates over 30,000 vehicles a day, many of them heavy trucks that rattle this compromised structure and daily threaten to collapse it. For over 70 years an American elm grew at the base of the wall and established a robust root system that worked its way into many of the cracks and interstices between the stones, uplifting and pushing aside an entire two foot section. Then, perhaps 10-15 years ago this elm, like so many others, succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease and was cut down. The final cut was made at two feet and the stump was left in place to rot.
In early February of 2017, a heavy rainstorm took out a section of the bridge abutment and it became clear that emergency repairs would have to be made, including rebuilding and repointing of the last remaining wall of the Mill. Before that could happen all remnants of the elm stump would have to be removed. However, close inspection revealed that the area between the wall and the stump was very unstable and that hasty or careless removal of the stump might cause the wall to collapse. Our suggested course of action was to first erect a protective support structure and then to release the roots on the back side and lift the stump remnant with an excavator with a thumb attachment. The embedded roots would be exposed with an air spade and removed with a hammer and chisel. Quick drying hydraulic cement would be used to fill in the voids as the work progresses.
Hopefully a bit of creative thought and careful workmanship in the removal of these physical roots will help us to preserve some of our historic roots for a few more years.
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