Heavy rains and winds during a July 4 evening storm are claiming some of the most prominent features of the Davidson College landscape -- the two Eastern Red Cedar trees flanking the front steps of Chambers Building.
One of them lost major branches and substantial portions of its canopy during the storm. The split within the tree revealed that the primary trunk is losing its structural integrity due to cavities forming within. College grounds officials have determined that the tree's imbalance and evidence of additional splits necessitate its retirement from service to the college community.
To maintain the symmetry of the Chambers façade, the damaged tree's matching mate on the north side of the front steps will also be taken down. The removal has been scheduled for this Thursday, July 11. Two new trees will be planted in place of the downed cedars, though the species and date of planting are yet to be determined.
The precise date the two campus icons were planted is unknown, but photographs from the Davidson College archives indicate it occurred during the 1930s.
Eastern Red Cedars are common throughout this region, but the size of this pair has made them noteworthy in the botanical community. The species commonly reach 40 to 50 feet in height, but the Chambers Building pair topped 75 feet.
In addition to providing a symmetrical front for the college's signature building, the two Chambers cedars were decorated with holiday lights as the backdrop of the college's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. That practice was abandoned during the past few years because the top of the cedars exceeded the capacity of college lift equipment, and concern grew over the weight of the lights suspended on the trees.
The trees were also an accomplice for a memorable student prank. On the night before a Commencement ceremony last decade, students scaled the cedars to access the dome atop Chambers Building, which they decorated with pipe and fabric to mimic a giant graduation mortarboard.
The twin cedars were among the most prominent of 1,650 trees and shrubs on campus registered in the college arboretum, which was created in 1982. Labels can be found on most trees listing a plant's family name, scientific name, common name, location, hardiness zone and native area. The two Eastern Red Cedars in front of Chambers Building were also part of the walking tour of the college arboretum, a published map identifying 40 especially unique specimens on the campus.
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