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Wake Forest begins long-term process to plant new trees on Hearn Plaza


December 12, 2008

Wake Forest University is beginning a three-year process to introduce three varieties of maple trees to replace Hearn Plaza’s disease-stricken ash trees.

“The maples will bring new life to the plaza’s tree canopy, gradually replacing the ash trees that have struggled to survive for years, despite our best efforts to restore their health,” said James Alty, associate vice president for facilities and campus services.

Planted in 1987, the Autumn Purple ash trees were diagnosed in 1998 with bacterial leaf scorch, which kills leaves each year by mid-summer. 

The university will begin the transition Dec. 15 when a crew starts taking down 10 ash trees.  Planting of maples will begin Jan. 5.

When planted, the trees will stand 10-12 feet tall.  At maturity, they will reach 45 to 60 feet in height.

More trees will be removed and replaced in the next few years, with work routinely occurring during the university’s winter breaks.  Ultimately, all of the ash trees will be replaced with the maples.

“We’re replacing the ash trees gradually to avoid losing all of the canopy at once,” Alty said.

Like ash trees, the maples will have rounded canopies and will grow to a similar height.  In the fall, the maples’ leaves will turn a vibrant red and orange.  Ash trees’ leaves turn purplish-brown in the fall.

The university has chosen to plant three varieties of maples—Brandywine, October Glory and Sun Valley—to reduce the likelihood any disease will affect all of the trees at the same time.

Originally, Hearn Plaza was covered with American elms, but those became infected by Dutch Elm disease, which gradually killed or damaged many of them.  The ash trees were planted to replace them in December 1987.

Press Contacts:

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237


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