Brookings tree replanted after original fell to lightning storm

, and | Contributing Writers, and Senior News Editor

A young American Basswood tree was planted in the northeast corner of Brookings Quadrangle in the presence of about 50 Washington University community members, Sept. 20. 

The planting came after an early-summer lightning storm severed the trunk of the original Brookings Basswood tree — which lived on campus for over a century.

“[The original Basswood] was a beautiful tree… it has value as a historic tree. I think it will forever be the oldest tree on campus because we are planting its clones now,” said Stan Braude, a Professor of Biology and the so-called “lorax” of the Washington University Arboretum.

The planting was also attended by numerous members of Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions, the service contractor for the University’s biodiversity landscapes. 

Cody Azotea, Account Manager of Focal Point, played a crucial role in preserving the legacy of the original Basswood. He harvested the scion wood and shipped it to Forrest Keeling Nursery to be grafted and grown. The local plant nursery yielded 17 genetic clones, three of which already stand in the Quadrangle. 

The new Basswood is the fourth clone to inhabit the Quad and occupies the precise location where the original Basswood once flourished.

During the planting ceremony, students in Braude’s “Woody Plants of Missouri” class took turns digging the hole where the young basswood was placed. Michael Barash, a senior Environmental Biology major, was eager to help lower the tree into its hole.

“The times that I’ve planted a tree or a plant, I feel a lot of parenthood for it, and personally, I’ll come back to check the tree and make sure it’s okay,” Barash said. “So I feel like planting trees makes people closer to them.”

Although the new tree is just three years old, it has the potential to reach towering heights and become one of the largest on campus, according to Braude. The new tree will also grow large, heart-shaped leaves, which could provide refreshing shade on sunny days and further enhance the beauty of the Quad, he said.   

Braude said the ceremony reflects the arboretum’s commitment to ensuring that the University’s trees will thrive well into the future.

“You don’t plant trees for yourself — you plant them for your grandchildren,” Braude said.

Washington University boasts a certified level II campus arboretum and is one of just 10 schools to receive recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Forestor’s “Tree Campus USA” program. The University is home to over 6,000 trees, and more than 300 tree species live on the Danforth campus alone. 

The Princeton Review has recognized Washington University as the 10th most beautiful college campus. Azotea hopes the new Basswood will help the University obtain the number-one spot — particularly when the tree’s petite, fragrant, white-yellow blossoms bloom.

“Hopefully there will always be Basswoods in Brookings Quad,” Braude said. “It will just be known as the Quad surrounded by Basswoods.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Forrest Keeling Nursery was responsible for grafting and growing the new Basswoods.

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