Sixteen trees from the Area 52 construction were conserved for various purposes. Manon Fisher – Mustang Daily

The Science Building, commonly known as the “Spider Building,” was outdated and now demolished for replacement, but 16 trees from the surrounding site were still healthy and strong. Two special trees were saved in their original locations because of their significance and the others have been moved to new locations.

A Montezuma Bald Cypress, the only one of its kind on the Central Coast and one of a few in California was saved, Matt Ritter, associate professor of biological sciences and chair of Cal Poly’s landscape advisory committee, said. The construction crews are working around the tree, which can be found across from the greenhouse in the construction site, Area 52.

“It’s a tree that was planted probably in the mid 50’s by Robert Rodin, a professor from this department,” Ritter said. “This one was planted by a sort of iconic professor.”

Before the Area 52 building plans could be completed and approved for construction, the landscape advisory committee had to create a landscaping plan for the site, Pamela Timm, administrative analyst for Facilities Planning and Capital Projects, said. The committee is in charge of assessing all landscaping on campus, including the plant life in Area 52.

The committee assessed the trees on an individual basis, Timm said. The committee took into account the sentimental value of certain trees like the one planted by Rodin when deciding which ones should stay on campus.

The other significant tree saved in its original location within the construction site is an olive tree dedicated by a graduating class in the ’50’s, Ritter said.

The landscape advisory committee found that the other 14 trees removed from the area had two qualities that made them candidates for transplantation, Ritter said.

“They were rare or particularly nice and large,” Ritter said.

It costs a lot to move the trees, so the committee had to focus on the ones that needed to be saved for budget purposes, Ritter said.

Out of the five trees designated to be saved and transplanted on campus, four survived. An Atlas Cedar tree died in the transplanting process, Barbara Queen, Facilities Planning and Capital Projects project manager, said.

A 7-foot Big Cone Douglas Fir tree can be seen on the south side of Building 53 with similar trees, Queen said.

The tree was chosen for transplantation because it is the only one known of on the Central Coast, Ritter said.

“It’s extremely rare. Pseudotsuga macrocalpa only occurs in the hills of LA and it’s a rare tree in its natural habitat,” Ritter said.

The other three surviving trees, a dragon tree, Monkey Flannel tree and a bottle tree, made their home in the Arboretum.

Nine trees were given to Valley Crest Tree Company in partial payment for its services. Cal Poly had a budget of $810,000 for trees, plants, ground cover, irrigation, irrigation controls and hardscape features, Queen said.

Ritter has already started a tree collection in pots at the Arboretum to plant after construction is finished. The committee’s goal was to maintain diversity in the new landscape that can be used by the classes in the new Center for Science building, Ritter said.

Along with the landscapes’ educational role, sustainability was also taken into account for the new trees that will be planted on the site. All plants will be drought tolerant and most trees will be planted on the northwest corner to provide shade. The southeast side will have small trees or be left open for natural light, Ritter said.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. I am relieved that particularly significant trees are being saved and/or relocated. I distinctly remember the olive tree. One year, as I was walking by, it was decorated with Nobel Peace Prize Awardees. In the soil at the base were model soldiers in the leaf litter. I was reminded of a line from the “Peace Dream Song,” AKA “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.” The last verse ends with “And guns and swords and uniforms were scattered on the ground.” Every time I hear or play that song, I think of that tree.

    Also, although the Big Cone Douglas-firs are mainly in the L.A. Hills, there are several healthy stands on Figueroa Mountain in the San Rafell Range on the Los Padres N.F., Santa Lucia District.

    Charles Blair, Former Biology Student and current KCPR DJ

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.