Campus mall purge of dying trees

Cherry blossoms got sunscald


Illustration by Lauren Campbell

“Years and years ago when they put that mall together, I don’t think they were thinking how well that tree was going to do in the space.” Jeff Toulou, EWU landscape maintenance supervisor

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer

The campus mall has a new appearance; the blossoming cherry trees that once encompassed the campus mall are gone.

The removal of the flowering ornamental cherry blossom trees was not because of some new building project but the result of their damaged trunks and the poor location they were originally placed in.

“We were very sad to see the trees go,” said Jeff Toulou, landscape maintenance supervisor for EWU. “They were diseased and damaged, and it came to a point where we just needed to remove them.”

Toulou said the number one reason the trees were taken out was because they had sunscald.

According to The Seattle Times, sunscald occurs on winter days when temperatures warm up. This causes the sap in trees to flow, and when the temperature drops again, the sap freezes and splits open the bark.

Toulou said when ornamental cherry blossom trees are planted around hard surfaces like bricks, concrete or asphalt, the reflection of the sun will also warm up the trees’ cells, letting moisture in, which can freeze and cause sunscald.

“Years and years ago when they put that mall together, I don’t think they were thinking how well that tree was going to do in the space,” said Toulou. “They planted those trees in these concrete rings, which are fairly small, so the roots were unable to grow.”

Toulou said the other problem was the irrigation system designed to feed those trees never worked properly, so the trees were not getting as much water as they needed.

Dahir Jigre, ASEWU President, said the university did everything they could to save the trees. One attempt included wrapping the trunks to expand their lives.

“I agree with my fellow students and peers that they were a huge part of the campus, especially the campus mall,” said Jigre. “However, the university will be making sure to put healthy trees [on campus] that will survive in our weather conditions.”

Though the cherry blossoms are gone from the campus mall, Toulou said trees are being added around campus.

The landscape maintenance team has bought 14 trees so far, according to Toulou. Some have already been planted: one near the campus mall, one by Monroe Hall and two by Showalter Hall and two will be placed near the visitor’s center. More trees are planned to be purchased in the fall.

Toulou said at least three of these additions are also flowering cherry trees, which should thrive in the less harsh conditions.

“I don’t think there is a good way that we can replace those trees because those roots travel everywhere down there, unless we tore out the whole mall, all those brick surfaces, and redid the irrigation to make it work,” said Toulou. “So for now, we plan on just keeping them covered with the pavers and having a big, open space.”