Plant Vandalism

Categories: Landscape, Trees

The final straw came late last week, at about 3:15 in the morning.

Nancy my (wonderfullypatientforputtingupwithme) wife, is a night cook at the Grille. While she was crawling into bed after work, she must have thought I was awake, so she said, “Tonight I saw a student carrying a tree into the Grille.”

Even if I wasn’t awake, now I was. Credit goes to her, and her supervisor Michael Glidden, who went up to the student to attempt to get the story of the incredibly large walking stick first hand. They had seen ripped bark at the top, and thought it to be an errant limb pulled down. It was a found object, the student said, and as near as I can tell, didn’t come from a landscape tree. Not a guess, but, yes, on my way grocery shopping the next day I’d checked the area around where the tree/stick was found. Quite the family, huh? I’m the daytime Lorax, and she’s stepping into the nighttime Lorax role well.

So this got me thinking, er, stewing, all weekend. Horticulturally, it’s been a good year to be a tree. Nice average growing season last year, no cyclical pests attacking, and a great, mild winter followed by a relaxing early spring. Being a tree on campus, though, has been stressful. The amount and severity of incidents against the landscape is rising, and I’m at a loss as to what to do.

I don’t mean to sound terribly mean and ugly. Heck, we don’t even know if it is members of our community, or outsiders. Very rarely does our department hear of the end result of any investigations, judicial committee outcomes, or anything else. We clean up the mess, replant when possible, and move on. Most years it is only one or two incidents a year-a large broken branch here, stripped bark of the trunk of tree somewhere else. We are seeing an increase this year, though. By my count, 5 seperate acts of vandalism this year.

Most of the time it is tops of trees or whole broken branches off of trees and shrubs. A Columnar Fir in front of Old Chapel, Arbs on Old Chapel Road and down at the Mods, a young Weeping Copper Beech in front of the Center for the Arts. Most of these incidents happen over a weekend. A couple of unusual incidents can illucidate some of the most egrarious examples, though.

 Two winters ago, a Dwarf Japanese White Pine was cut down by saw in a planted bed in front of the Main Library. Imagine my surprise seeing a tiny 1″ stump with the littlest pile of sawdust ever seen where a rare dwarf was perfectly situated.  (I’d actually heard from an “informant” that the perpetrator thought it was a full size pine, and was fixated on how this “tree” was planted in the wrong spot, and would outgrow the space. She thought she would fix my error in landscape by removal. Correct theory, wrong plant, o ye of little faith…)

This year, though, has been seen an increase the amount of damage. Last fall, someone with an axe cut down or mutilated 7 or so trees near Porter Field Road. Then, a couple of weeks ago, a young (3-4″ at the base) Crabapple was pulled up out of the ground from a parking lot island, and brought into a dormitory. Ripped up and out. By hand, it looked like. Perhaps they went through the effort to rope it off to a car, and used that to pull. Either way, quite a bit of work. The list can go on, but I’m getting a little depressed. Below are some pictures of vandalism in the past, including the axed trees and the crabapple-click on a picture to start an image browser with some explanations.

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 I prefer planting trees that aren’t replacements, and would like to keep planting shrubs that will will stand the test of time. Some students are planning an Arbor Day celebration, stay tuned and plan to come join the fun. Hopefully a little awareness will go a long ways. If you have any ideas to stop the rising trend, please comment. The trees and I need the help.

3 Responses to Plant Vandalism

  1. Anne Harlan says:

    Oh, this made me very sad. I don’t have and ideas, but will be there to support the students who want to plant on Arbor Day.

    (I love the idea of you and your wife as an arboreal super hero team, tracking down the bad guys!)

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