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Sept. 20, 2012 Volume 34, No. 5

One hundred campus trees lost to heat and drought


Plans are to replace trees over the next two years

North of Reynolds Alumni Center, a circle of new grass marks where a 25-foot spruce once stood. The spruce, along with about 100 other campus trees, died this summer. 

From June through August, the state of Missouri experienced its worst drought in a generation. The lack of rain and string of 100-degree days took their toll on the 705 acres of developed MU land. 

Automated irrigated areas on the two acres of gardens and select lawns, like Kuhlman Court and Francis Quadrangle, were mostly unscathed. But non-irrigated areas — the lawns of the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center, McAlester Park, Dairy Lawn — were reduced to scorched earth. 

During a normal summer, 60 percent of labor involves watering. But last summer, Landscape Services staff watered 90 percent of the time, said Pete Millier, director of Campus Facilities–Landscape Services and Mizzou Botanic Garden.  

Though Millier noticed drought signs as early as fall 2010, he wasn’t prepared for the ravage. “It’s been a tough summer,” he said.

Even the squirrels and rabbits suffered, though Millier believes no animal deaths were due to the dire conditions. 

Environmental stress on trees meant fewer acorns for squirrels, and dead grass meant reduced food for rabbits, he said. Many tree trunks were wrapped for protection from the gnawing creatures in search of food.

Millier said the department will invest in additional watering equipment and plant more trees resilient to heat and drought, such as Chinese pistache and crape myrtle. 

About 150 new trees will be planted over the next two years. 

“We are optimistic for an improved landscape,” Millier said.