Oct 312011
Authors: Emily Horn

If you’ve gone to any of your classes in the past few days, you have probably had to dodge the mess of tree branches covering walkways after the Oct. 26 snowfall that took its toll on campus foliage.

And, while the damage has left some questions about the health of campus trees, most of them will recover.

“Broken branches usually don’t lead to problems for trees unless the open wounds allow some disease to get a foothold,” said Dan Binkley, a professor of forest ecology at CSU.

The future of the trees depends mostly on how many branches were lost and how old the trees are.

“If the tree has lost one or two small branches it will not affect the overall health of the tree,” said William Jacobi, a professor of tree pathology and extension specialist. “If the tree has lost over 50 percent of the branches, then the tree will be stressed and will struggle for a few years. But since we are irrigating most trees in Fort Collins, the trees should respond well over the next year or two.”

If larger limbs are broken from the tree, it will be more difficult for the tree to recover than if smaller branches are lost. The most hopeless case occurs when there is basically nothing left but the trunk. In these cases there is not enough foliage for the tree to make it through another growing season.

“The broken stub of the branch, if not pruned back to a major fork, will provide a great place for decay fungi to enter the tree and may cause structural weakness in the future,” Jacobi said. “So it is a great idea to prune the broken branches and have this done correctly.”

The grounds department of facilities management is in charge of cleaning up the trees and clearing the fallen branches, under the direction of a professional arborist.

Currently CSU has four arborist crews working around campus.

“Each crew has at least one ground worker and one aerial lift worker,” said assistant director of facilities management Fred Haberecht. “We have one crew from CSU, one from Jordan’s Tree Service, and two from Swingle.”

All of the fallen branches are temporarily being taken to the conference services building on Shields and Laurel Streets where they will be chipped and used as mulch around campus.

“Some of the trees on the Oval are over 100 years old and have gone through this sort of episode before,” Haberecht said, adding that the removal of branches is anticipated to take the entire month of November.

_Collegian writer Emily Horn can be reached at news@collegian.com. _

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