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Pin oak tree removal will begin on historic Francis Quadrangle this week

‘The Legacy Oaks of the Francis Quadrangle’ will fund replacement of the trees

July 16th, 2018

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — For more than 60 years, pin oak trees have framed the historic Francis Quadrangle on the University of Missouri campus. However, a recently completed tree health and safety study has revealed an urgent need to remove five of the 20 pin oaks growing along the Francis Quadrangle perimeter sidewalks. Removal is planned to begin today, but university leaders and supporters are committed to maintaining the traditional look of the Quad in the years to come.

“Hundreds of thousands of students, alumni, faculty, staff and visitors have walked along the Quad and made memories in the shade of the beautiful trees that line it,” said Pete Millier, director of Campus Facilities-Landscape Services and the Mizzou Botanic Garden. “We understand that these trees are important to the Mizzou family, and that’s why we want to ensure replacement trees are strong and healthy for years to come.”

The trees, originally planted in the 1950s, have slowly declined due in part to not being in their native habitat and the addition of irrigation to the Francis Quadrangle in the 1990s, which changed the composition of the soil. The five trees slated for removal also have significant structural issues, posing a safety risk to pedestrians if limbs were to fall.

The trees will eventually be replaced with native trees in the white oak group that are better suited for the soil conditions on the Quad. In addition, arborists will continue to work to extend the life of the remaining trees by trimming deadwood, but expect that all 15 of the remaining pin oaks will need to be removed at some point in the future.

“Pin oak, a member of the red oak group, thrives in its native, river bottomland environment with rich, acidic soil,” said Chris Starbuck, associate professor emeritus in the Division of Plant Sciences. “In urban landscapes, compacted clay soil with high pH causes stress that shortens the life span of pin oak trees to less than the 90 years expected in their native habitat. Trees in the white oak group commonly live for more than 200 years and tend to tolerate urban soils better than pin oak.”

The Mizzou Botanic Garden Friends Advisory Board has established a tree commission to review and make recommendations for replacing the aging pin oaks. Consisting of forestry and plant sciences faculty, staff from Campus Facilities-Landscape Services, MU’s master planner, tree-knowledgeable alumni and community citizens, the tree commission has been meeting regularly to review tree health and site conditions. The group has been exploring the most appropriate native tree replacements, new tree placement design options, fundraising strategies and a phased implementation timeline.

“This is a chapter in the history of the Francis Quadrangle, and I think it’s a very positive chapter,” said Bill Ruppert, a Mizzou alum who majored in horticulture and is a member of the tree commission. “We’re going to be replacing these pin oaks with some stellar, native oak species that will live a lot longer. The pin oaks are beautiful, but they are not as historic as the Quad and are not the original trees, which were Siberian elms.”

As a student, Ruppert finished the development of the woodland garden in a courtyard next to the agriculture building and spent the first 10 years of his career developing a landscape enhancement plan at Mizzou. Today, he is very involved with the university through extension and owns National Nursery Products in St. Louis.

The replacement of the pin oaks, which will happen over the next several years, will be funded through a special Mizzou Botanic Garden fundraising campaign: The Legacy Oaks of the Francis Quadrangle. The replacement native oak trees will be transplanted from a nursery and contain a special root development system designed to limit transplant shock. All replacement oaks will be planted at the same time in the nursery and then moved to the Quad as other pin oaks are removed. This approach will ensure the trees are of the same size and help maintain the Quadrangle’s iconic scenery during the replacement process.

For information regarding The Legacy Oaks of the Francis Quadrangle program, please call MU Advancement at (573) 884-2355.

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The Mizzou Botanic Garden, managed by MU Campus Facilities Landscape Services, a department of MU Operations, is located throughout the entire landscape of the MU campus.

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